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New Poet-Teacher Highlight - Michael Jasso (Tulare County)

Michael Jasso is a Spoken Word Artist from Visalia who has worn many hats within the community over the past 15+ years. He has traveled all across California and the country as either a Poet, Emcee, Volunteer, Workshop Facilitator, Slam Coach, or a combination of all the above. He has been Lead Organizer of Visalia’s Loud Mouth Poetry Jam for the last 10+ years bringing out the world’s most talented poets, as well as showcasing the talent of the Valley’s poetry community back to the world. He represented his home venue at the 2014 & 2015 National Poetry Slam in Oakland, competed in the 2018 Individual World Poetry Slam as a Storm Poet, a member of the 2023 Slam Team, and has offered coaching to every Loud Mouth representative. He is the current 2024 Loud Mouth Grand Slam Champion. His work can be found in such collections as Dia De Las Poeticas (2020), Wayside Shrines & Other Offerings (2022) as well as Flies, Cockroaches, & Poets (2023).

Here is a sample of Michael's poetry:


By Michael Jasso

When I first gave you a name,

My intention was to have something to mark your headstone

You were meant to be laid to rest

But unfortunately depression can not be so easily buried without filling in extra spaces in

the ground

Not without pulling back the covers

Revealing that the monsters just got better at hiding in our mind

Sometimes even the darkest secrets still get carried to the grave

Enough to make the skeletons in the closets' heads roll

I decided to name you out of caution

To prevent being labeled In Denial

Scarlet letters that burn too heavy on the mind

And like hot coals your name is handled with care

Speaking out too loud can still leave burn blisters across the tongue

I named you Devin

Because Depression doesn't roll off the tongue the same way

Comes with pills too hard to swallow

But a rose by any other name can still have thorns just as sharp

I named you Devin to remind myself how you are just an uninvited guest to a party I

never wanted to be at

A squatter in a home built on a poor foundation

Crashing waves on a boat already lost at sea

Names like yours are never said out loud at family dinner conversations

It has always been better to brush you under the table

Much like religion and politics

If we ignore it long enough perhaps it will eventually go away?

Perhaps like the common cold,

It can cure itself?

Your brain will eventually get rid of those sad feelings?

This family can do without a Devin

Can do without passing it along as inheritance

Can do without tainting our bloodline

Can be uprooted from this family tree

Better to break off a branch with poisoned fruit than let it spread deep within our bark

I named you Devin to remind myself that you are just as flawed

Just as broken

Just as human as I am

That you are as much a part of me as the hands that first scrawled your name onto the


If I must, I'll wear you like a scar

A reminder that we are both dangerous for one another

That one day one of us will pull too hard leaving the other to go crashing into each other

Or push too much sending us spinning out of control

I named you Devin to give gravity to our relationship

I named you Devin

It hurts too much to name you


What crime could be worse than stealing a life?

Not all of us mastered being grave robbers

And before I am laid to rest, you should know

That this won't hold me down like the dirt you've shoveled over me

Even some secrets aren't worth carrying to the grave

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