The relevance of poetry

Mar 06, 2013
The First Family and the National Student Poets Poetry has a long, enchanting history, but it seems to be dogged by this myth that it’s stodgy, dull, or even – gasp – boring. But if you read poetry like these kids write it, be prepared for that myth to be shattered. Last year, we announced the National Student Poets Program, a joint program with the President’s Committee on the Arts & the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. The NSPP is the country’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work; through the prestigious Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, five students from across the country were named. Now, they – the 2012 Class of National Student Poets – are on the ground, making poetry go viral. They’re participating in readings, book festivals and community service projects that will ignite others their age to read and appreciate poetry. And now, they’re on Facebook at National Student Poets Program, where they’ll be talking poetry, but also bridging generations between young and old, emerging and professional, readers and non-readers. So who are these five poets? Luisa Banchoff is 17 and from Arlington, VA. She says, “I hope to bring poetry back into the lives of my peers – not just as another technology that connects us, but as a way of engaging young people at a personal level and inviting them to contribute their voice.” Claire Lee, 16 and from New York City, says, “The program gives me hope – hope that I can change and help better my community, hope that I can give those who share the same love for poetry the opportunities and resources I have, and hope that I can impact the lives of the future generation of poets.” Miles Hewitt is 17 and from Vancouver, Washington. “[The poet Terrance] Hayes reminds me not only of the importance of believing in my own writing, but also in seeking out my writing’s imperfections. ‘When you run your hand along a table,’ he said, ‘you feel for the splinter, not the smoothness. Poetry is the same way.’” Natalie Richardson, 17, from Oak Park, IL, says, “Last summer, I went to a reading in Michigan, and I remember the author saying in his introduction, ‘writing is turning the alphabet into blood.’ I have always felt that is true.” Lylla Younes is also 17 and hails from Alexandria, LA. “I remember thinking how strangely wonderful it is, that in times like this, when the county seems to be constantly bombarded with problem after problem, that people are still willing to put so much time and effort into developing arts for the youth.” Head over to Facebook to discover what they’re inspired by – and of course, to share what moves, perplexes and charges you to create. As Allen Ginsberg said, “art is a community effort.” Thanks to Jeannette Anderson for her help with this post!