The Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Out Loud’s national competition champions, the 2014 Class of National Student Poets (NSPP) and representatives of poetry slam and spoken word organizations from around the country will convene in Chicago in early April to engage issues around the role of poetry in youth culture. In this two-day assembly, young poets, established poets, and poetry leaders will present a series of public and private performances, seminars, and workshops to investigate how poetry both informs and transforms the lives of students.
“It is crazy how I can be weary and afraid, pick up a poem, and find myself empowered and moved to continue living just as I am, human,” says Anita Norman, 2014 Poetry Out Loud: National Student Recitation Competition champion. “We have the power to write someone’s peace into existence, to write dreams until they float off the page and into reality. Words do that. Expression in that way has healed so many people and will continue to do so if we stay open to the power of communication. We’ve got to stay connected to make any sort of difference in the world. Poetry is a vehicle of change.”
The National Student Poets, which is the nation’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original works, will join in a series of public performances and dialogue with young spoken word poets from Poetry Out Loud, Youth Speaks/Brave New Voices, Young Chicago Authors and Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement.
“We are excited that all these terrific poetry and arts organizations will be coming together in Chicago for a youth, poetry, and education summit," said Poetry Foundation President, Robert Polito. "But we are even more excited about the students themselves. I know of no stronger ambassadors for poetry than these gifted young people.”
Over the course of the two day assembly, private programs for students feature a master class with poet Terrance Hayes, a Q&A with Poetry magazine editor Don Share and a panel discussion with leaders in the poetry and cultural community including Lisa New, Professor of English at Harvard University; Jen Benka, Executive Director of the American Academy of Poets; Alice Quinn, Executive Director of the Poetry Society of America; and representatives of the President’s Committee, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Library of Congress.
The forum kicks off National Poetry Month during which the National Student Poets will share their poems and take part in workshops, panels and other activities as part of their year of service as poetry ambassadors, which began last September at a ceremony in the White House with First Lady Michelle Obama. Each year, the President’s Committee, in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, appoints a new class of five student poets. Through their example and work, NSPP poets help open up new horizons for youth and at the Youth & Poetry conference they will join with their spoken-word counterparts to identify activities to further this goal.