Button Poetry is taking poems online to reach young audiences – and they’re going viral

Pro tip: Don’t follow the link to Button Poetry’s YouTube channel unless you’ve got an hour to spend poring through the archive. Trust me. I’ve lost track of all kinds of “work” time to the talented poet-performers featured there after clicking a link shared on Facebook – hours, probably. I have lost time to them, but I wouldn’t count a minute of it wasted.

Let me tell you: if you’ve worried over articles bemoaning a lack of interest in poetry by kids these days, this multimedia Minnesota-based initiative “to broaden poetry’s audience, to expand its reach and develop a greater level of cultural appreciation for the art form” is sure to give you heart. Button Poetry’s featured poets are diverse in voice, background and subject matter but uniformly vibrant, so assured in their craft they’re free to put real vulnerability on the line. The poems hum like live wires, powered by earnestness and purpose.

Find Button Poetry online at

St. Paul’s a powerhouse of slam poetry talent – the city’s Soap Boxing Poetry Slam team members are regulars at the National Poetry Slams (and they win, too).  Two of those national champions, Sam Cook and Sierra DeMulder, founded Button Poetry, first launching a dedicated website and blog in 2011; in short order, they were joined by Rachele Cermak and Heidi Lear. Button Poetry quickly started producing recordings and conspired with the filmmakers of Poetry Observed to create what became a very popular web video series. On the heels of that successful collaboration, in 2012, Sam Cook and another poetry slam champ, Dylan Garity, rebranded the organization to have even greater emphasis on video and social media distribution, in particular, launching the Button Tumblr and Button YouTube.

Since then, they’ve produced a number of additional recordings for download and published a handful of chapbooks (and just recently, an e-book collection, “Viral”). And to populate that YouTube channel, Button Poetry also routinely creates video shorts culled from performances at live slam competitions – first regional shows and, increasingly, also around the country.

It was at one of those regional slam competitions, the Rustbelt Regional Slam, that they captured video of Neil Hilborn’s performance of “OCD” (see above) – now the most-viewed slam performance in history. That’s the viral video that propelled Button Poetry to national attention. In fact their visibility has remained high, and for very good reason: Button Poetry continues to find and showcase the most compelling young artists plying verse today.

Below I’m sharing small sample, some of my favorites by Twin Cities-based Button Poetry performers. If you like what you hear, I urge you to poke around the website and Button YouTube video feed. You can choose at random and not be disappointed – and I bet you count it an hour or two well-spent.

Find more on the Button Poetry website, YouTube Channel, Tumblr and, of course, on Facebook and Twitter