Inaugural National Student Poet and Northeast Representative, Claire Lee, returns to the AYAW blog to interview the 2013 Class of National Student Poets for her “Poets on Poets” series.
This week’s interview is with National Student Poet and Northeast Representative, Michaela Coplen!
Claire Lee: Hi Michaela! How’ve you been doing? What have you been up to lately this summer?
Michaela Coplen: Hey Claire! Well, the other National Student Poets and I attended the Aspen Ideas Festival, and I’ve actually been on a road trip to Texas to see family. Also, I’ve been preparing for a trip to Haiti. Oh, and don’t forget dorm supply shopping for college!
CL: That all sounds so interesting! Speaking of interesting things, what were some major NSPP events this year for you?
MC: Well, I went on a trip to Vermont for a couple of days, and it was really remarkable to spend time in an insulated part of the region. On the first day in Vermont, I workshopped with inmates at a correctional facility in Burlington, and on the second day, I worked with English language learners in Montpelier. On the third day, I worked with high school students and several members of the state legislature; I actually read for them and did a radio interview and got to talk to some of the people in the state legislature. It was great seeing a bunch of people in a community coming together through poetry.
Another major event was the Poetry & the Creative Mind Gala at Lincoln Center, which was hosted by the Academy of American Poets. It was major mostly because I was in the presence of some of my heroes.
CL: Like Meryl Streep?
MC: Omg, yes Meryl Streep! (She’s also a Vassar alum, so you know if Meryl tells you to go, you’ve got to go haha.)
But the Gala event was a fantastic opportunity and experience. It was the same with the Aspen Ideas Festival, so I don’t know if I could pick a favorite.
CL: Aww, now I’m going to be that person that asks you to choose one favorite!
MC: I definitely loved the Poetry & Creative Mind Gala in New York City, but it’s so hard to compare because these events are all so different! The Gala was a great performance and life opportunity, but it didn’t have what I loved about the other events.
CL: Like what?
MC: It didn’t have the workshop aspect, the hands-on working with kids.
CL: What about the NSPP summer events? What were they like?
MC: We had the Aspen Ideas Festival just at the end of June and got to spend 5-6 days there. I really loved the first night, when all the poets got together. We were joined by poets from Louder Than a Bomb / Young Chicago Authors. That night, we walked into the Aspen downtown and just started spontaneously performing on the street. It was the first time I just performed poetry on a street corner. So yeah, it was definitely really memorable.
CL: Wow, that sounds amazing, just the poets slamming out on the street corner! What was the biggest challenge this year for you as a National Student Poet?
MC: I’d probably say that it was going to school because it takes so much time, and doing college apps. There’s something about re-entering real life after a big NSPP event. And also, during my service project for six weeks, it was interesting to keep up with the planning for that, with workshops and all, and going to school and being a teenager. Especially in April because of National Poetry Month—I think I was out of school more than I was in! It was certainly an exercise in time management the whole year.
CL: Word, tell me about it! Hmm, since we’re almost at the end of our interview, do you have any summer reading recommendations?
MC: Actually, I recently read everything Junot Diaz ever wrote, so definitely him. I also read a book of essays by Octavio Paz, In Light of India. He’s a Nobel-winning poet and Mexico’s ambassador to India. He describes everything in ways you’d expect from a poet—so it’s very vivid and makes me want to visit India. I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s good so far.
CL: You definitely have to let us know how it is, once you’ve finished reading it!
MC: Of course!
CL: Is there anything you’d like to share about what you learned this year as a National Student Poet?
MC: Yeah, this year really affirmed a lot of things for me and opened up a lot of aspects about myself. The year really inspired me to continue using the empathetic connection of poetry for service.
The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers partner to present the National Students Poets Program, the country’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work. Each year, five National Student Poets are selected through the prestigious Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for a year of service as poetry ambassadors, each representing a different region of the country.