By Jeanette Anderson
Coordinator, National Student Poets Program (NSPP)
Growing up in New York City, I remember reading poems on the subway and bus rides to my school located on the outskirts of Manhattan Beach. I braced for the winter winds to whip the water around the school’s steps. I carried Adrienne Rich. I carried Kenneth Koch (especially his great love poem “To Marina”):
Every detail is everything in its place (Aristotle). Literature is a cup
And we are the malted. The time is a glass. A June bug comes
And a carpenter spits on a plane, the flowers ruffle ear rings.
I am so dumb-looking. And you are so beautiful.
This weekend and nearly a decade later, I found myself on the subway with the 2013 National Student Poets. I carried their great work with me, which you can download here. They met the nation’s leading poets and thinkers of today in New York City and at the Academy of American Poets’ Poets Forum. The Academy’s chancellors were all so generous and kind with their advice, encouragement, and belief in our next generation of poets.
On Thursday, October 24, the Student Poets were hosted by poet and President of the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Edward Hirsch. He presented the Poets with two of his books, all signed with personal notes. In one of his gifts, Poet’s Choice, he writes in the introduction that he “stumbled upon poetry as a teenager in Chicago – I was at sea and it offered me a raft – and it has sustained me for the past forty years.” He goes on to write that he “carried poetry with me like a flashlight.” The National Student Poets carried pens. Together, they sat at the Foundation’s long conference table that was draped in a brown leather tablecloth and shared poems. Every detail is everything in its place. What does poetry represent for you? A root? A lifeline? Blue buoys pointing the way towards a good lobster haul in the dark? I think of sustenance too.
That evening, the Poets were welcomed by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers’ Board of Directors and their guests at a special reception in the Greenhouse at Scholastic’s Main Office Building in SoHo. There, the Institute of Museum and Library Services Director Susan Hildreth, President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities member and NSPP Founder Olivia Morgan, and the Alliance’s Executive Director Virginia McEnerney spoke about the program. Then, the Poets read their work with the gorgeous backdrop of the city’s orange light behind them.
Among many supporters, the Poets were greeted by NSPP juror and Poetry Society of America’s Executive Director Alice Quinn. Together, we celebrated how poetry connects us to each other and ourselves. Literature is a cup / and we are the malted.
The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers partner to present the National Student Poets Program (NSPP), the country’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work. Five outstanding high school poets whose work exhibits exceptional creativity, dedication to craft, and promise are selected annually for a year of service as national poetry ambassadors.