Five high school students continue their year of service as National Student Poets that began with their October 2015 induction into the National Student Poets Program–the nation’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work.
As poetry ambassadors, David Xiang, De’John Hardges, Eileen Huang, Anna Lance, and Chasity Hale are expected to promote an appreciation of the literary arts across the country through opportunities such as programs, readings, and workshops. They’ve been active throughout the year—especially in April, National Poetry Month—sharing their passion for poetry in their own hometowns and beyond.
David Xiang, a senior from Little Rock, Arkansas, has been focusing his efforts as a National Student Poet on work with peers and veterans. During National Poetry Month, David led creative writing workshops at three high schools in Oklahoma and presented at the Norman Veterans Center with Iraqi Freedom veteran and Purple Heart recipient Jason Poudrier.
“Being a National Student Poet means a lot of big, big things, ” Xiang says, “but during my tenure I’ve learned to try to value the little things. Whether it is being able to talk about poetry with a group of high school students, a group of five-year-old kids, or veterans, every experience has been invaluable to me in not only helping me become a better writer, but also in helping me reflect on who I am, and who I don’t want to be.”
In Oklahoma, he was recognized by the Oklahoma Sate Senate at the State Capitol, toured the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, and met with the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Arts Council.
Xiang says the biggest thing he’s learned is that his poetry can actually help others. “I don’t need to be shy or reserved about sharing my work, or sharing my passion of poetry with others.”
Throughout the month of April, you could find De’John Hardges, a junior from Cleveland, Ohio, teaching hip-hop and poetry workshops at the Cleveland Center Library and Collinwood High School. He hosted a series of five workshops that included hip-hop, haiku, and performance.
“I’ve had the opportunity to inspire youth to express themselves and open up to writing, ” Hardges explains. “These little kids were being challenged with a new complex topic, but they engaged it like a lifelong friend. They are the true definition of impressive.”
Eileen Huang, a sophomore from Holmdel, New Jersey, was invited to do a TEDx talk and present her original work at the 14th Annual Poetry & the Creative Mind Gala at the Lincoln Center in New York.
While touring through New Hampshire for National Poetry Month, she was a guest on NHPR’s Word of Mouth Public Radio show & podcast, was interviewed by ConVal High School’s student publication, led a teen poetry reading and workshop at Keene Public Library, and visited Hopkinton High School, Bow High School, and Waldorf High School.
Huang’s learned not to be disappointed if participants in a workshop are reluctant to share their poetry. “Realistically, you can’t expect everyone to want to be the next Allen Ginsberg, ” she says. Instead, she focuses on outreach, encouraging people “to immerse themselves in poetry and, most importantly, get something of value to themselves out of it.”
“Share your passion!” That’s advice from Anna Lance, a senior from Anchorage, Alaska, who traveled to Montana to attend poetry workshops and Second Wind Readings by University of Montana graduate students, meet the members of the Missoula Writing Collaborative, and be interviewed by the award-winning Aerie Big Sky and Aerie International Literary magazines.
For a while, Lance struggled with opening up about her love for poetry and the way it’s led her to where she is today. “People want to hear your story, though, ” she says, “and telling it helps them connect with you and engage actively with your work.”
She’s done readings at elementary schools and with seventh graders on the Flathead Reservation of the Salish & Kootenai Tribes. Most recently, Anna attended Celebration of the Arts—an open house to showcase student work, hosted by Arts Without Boundaries at Billings Public Library.
Her most challenging experience as a National Student Poet has been getting over the initial anxiety of leading her first workshops. “Seventh graders are scary! However, all I could do was forge ahead, and the workshops ended up being a really incredible experience!”
A junior from Miami, Florida, Chasity Hale is not only a National Student Poet—she’s also the recipient of the Scholastic Art & Writing Award national gold medal, two gold keys, and six silver keys. She has also won first place in the Sarah Mook poetry contest and has been published by Creative Communications, Susquehanna University, and the Young American Poetry Digest.
She wasn’t sure at first where to start with community outreach, then she began connecting with people and organizations already committed to poetry and “and found that a creative world of inspiring and passionate poetry-lovers existed all across Miami.”
Hale presented her original poetry at O, Miami, Miami’s largest poetry event, and led poetry and writing workshops at the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum and several schools throughout Savannah, Georgia.
During their remaining months of service, the 2015 National Student Poets will continue seeking ways to share their passion for poetry. Chasity Hale offers advice to future National Student Poets that’s suitable for all poets:
“Seek out the organizations and programs in your hometown that have already expressed an interest in poetry and see how you can be a part of that.”
Photo by Zach Dischner, Creative Commons license via Flickr.
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish