April is National Poetry Month, and IMLS salutes the country’s first National Student Poets. IMLS and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) partnered with the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers to create the National Student Poets Program, which bestows the nation’s highest honor for youth poets whose original work exhibits exceptional creativity, dedication to craft, and promise. This month, we will feature the writings of each of the five National Student Poets. Each student poet represents the region they live in. Today’s featured poet represents the Northeast.
Claire Lee, from New York, N.Y., cannot be described simply as a poet. This is to say, she’s creative in more ways than just poetry and is inspired by the unexpected, including her math, chemistry, and physics classes. Lee writes and edits for several student newspapers and magazines, and participates in activities as far reaching as dance and philosophy clubs at her school. Catch Claire tonight in New York at the Academy of American Poets 11th Annual Poetry & Creative Mind Gala, where she will be a featured presenter. In addition to this event, she will also be leading a series of poetry workshops on Mondays and Wednesdays in the month of April for elementary school children at the East Harlem Tutorial Program. Below is Claire’s “Laws of Thermodyamics.”
Laws of Thermodynamics
Fun with Physics! the worksheet reads,
My sketches of excited electrons and Einstein’s wild hair
Scattered all over.
Zeroth law of thermodynamics: If two systems have equal heat and one of the two systems has equal heat with another system, all three systems have equal heat.
Old weathered woman steps onto the subway in green
I look up and see
Skin is tarnished:
Sun has left its stains on her face and stretch has left its mark on her arms.
First law of thermodynamics: Energy, or heat, can neither be created nor destroyed, but changed from one form to another.
She wears khaki capris and a huge
Pink shirt that billows a little when the doors sweep open,
She stands in the middle of the car;
No man gives his seat to her.
I do not give my seat to her.
She has a rolling bag and a cane, plastic, but made to look like wood,
And running shoes.
She lurches, falling into my lap,
As the train jolts into the 59th Street station.
The worksheets fan out around her.
Her pink shirt billows open,
Her plastic cane clatters onto the floor.
She picks herself up, gathering up the papers,
Offers a warm, gap-toothed smile
As an apology, and places the stack
Gently into my hands.
And I feel ashamed.
Second law of thermodynamics: The temperatures of systems that touch each other will become equal.