Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Youth Poetry in Awesome Austin

Background: When I was fourteen my parents found my poetry journal. It wasn't more than a little stick-in-your-pocket book. Tiny. I'd write poems in different colors. You know, the way the real artists did it. It vaporized from my toolbox/hiding place, leaving the tools and other camo in place. I wish I remembered any, ANY of those poems. I know they were powerful, I know they were from my heart. Part of my heart went with them, to whichever landfill bequeathed.

The 2010 Austin International Poetry Festival (which I helped run) wrapped up a couple of weeks ago. Along with the 200+ adult poets were dozens of high school, middle school and elementary school poets. Their entries were judged by published poets, and there were awards for best poem in each of the three school classes. (Yes, that means money!) The coolest part (which we had to hush up during the festival) was that there was an eight year old who submitted her poem to our adult contest. And got in! And was on track to be one of the winners!

Her mother caught wind of it. (Moms do that often.) So she gave a special reading at the youth event, and we snipped Isabella's name -- Doh! -- from the adult anthology. But she's in there!

We do the festival and youth anthology every year. And we look for great poets with passion in their minds and voices. And ask them to submit poems to our youth festival. There are workshops, a youth (13+) slam and lots of activities.

Not to mention the chance of being published in a real poetry anthology. I've been involved with the festival for ten years, and there's NEVER been a youth anthology that hasn't made me stop and think. Hard. I've learned a lot.

Here are a few of the poems published in the diverse-Youth 2010 Anthology. I hope you can joint us next year with your verses, songs, dreams and prayers. Where I've put in a fragment of a poem, I've used "..." marks.

I could give my cold review, my "opinion" as much as it matters to the poets who wrote or, for that matter, you who are reading. So I'll let the poets speak for themselves.

legs, eyes
meet, eat, greet
little, odd, creepy,hungry
Denver. Canyon Springs MS, Austin


The room is empty,
All but me.
The room is black,
I cannot see.
I cannot stand this,
No light all day.
No one with me,
No one to play.
Won't you help?
Come play with me?
The room is empty,
All but me.
Matt. Forbes MS, Georgetown


I love my
pencil. I
think it
loves me
back. ...
I hear it scream
when I stick it
in the hole to
sharpen it. I
still love it
and it loves
Koby. Gateway School (HS), Arlington

...Downstairs the television blares silently,
some meteorologist recorded over static buzz,
forever mouthing predictions,
as if any one is listening during the death of night,
as if his forecasts could change what would happen,
as if he were capable of doing anything ...

Nicole. Westwood High School (HS), Round Rock


The coldness bites like bugs at our faces.
A thousand needles poke our hands.
The wind is like fire drying and burning,
like the muscles in our legs from the hundred yard dash.
Numbness takes over the body and mind.
Cold and horror rust while you whole.
Bullets' warmth is a sinister attraction.
In a battlefield of cold, the enemy is warmth.

William. Gateway School (HS), Arlington

I've only been writing poems for... um... can we say 'a while?' The anthology is filled with poems from people writing from the honest, burning core of their hearts. Check out the anthology at a library (and tell your library you want a copy). Or contact youth@aipf.org for information on submitting your poem to the next anthology!

Whatever you do, write. Write what's in your heart, and share it with others. Because our innermost passion deserves to be shared, not swallowed like a lump of burning coal.

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