First Lady Michelle Obama hosts a poetry reading in honor of the 2014 National Student Poets (from left: Cameron Messinides, Madeleine LeCesne, Ashley Gong, Julia Falkner and Weston Clark) in the Blue Room of the White House, Sept. 18, 2014. (Photo by Paul Morse for the National Student Poets Program)
We are delighted to introduce Weston Clark, Julia Falkner, Ashley Gong, Madeline LaCense, and Cameron Messinides – the third annual class of literary ambassadors for the National Student Poets Program, the nation’s highest honor for young poets presenting original work. The program, a signature initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, promotes and celebrates young people as makers and doers who can engage audiences of all ages in the art of poetry.
The five poets are currently in Washington DC for days full of poetry reading and hand shaking – a glimpse into the exciting year ahead! Not only will they be reading their original works at the Library of Congress this afternoon, the poets had the pleasure of meeting First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday at the pinning ceremony.
We have a diverse group of voices in these young poets, and their passion for their craft is unmatched. It is going to be a true joy to see these five poets bring poetry to their communities in their own unique ways. Read more about the 2014 class of National Student Poets below:
Weston Clark, Age 16; Indianapolis, IN; Midwest Region
Weston has been writing poetry since he was in first grade. He initially wrote Shel Silverstein–style poetry and has enjoyed exploring other styles, including free verse. Weston was born in Indianapolis and attends Park Tudor School. Although he lives in central Indiana, southern Indiana and the rolling red hills of Kentucky are his favorite places.
Through his writing, Weston tries to evoke emotions in people. He strongly agrees with Maya Angelou’s philosophy: People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Madeleine LeCesne, Age 18; New Orleans, LA; Southwest Region
Madeleine is a senior at Lusher Charter School in New Orleans, Louisiana. Madeleine began writing poetry when she was six years old, after her parents gave her an antique bed. Every night, her mother and father would find her crouched behind the headboard scribbling lines into the wood. Madeleine lost this work in 2005, when the headboard and her home were washed away by Hurricane Katrina. The city of New Orleans is her one great love. Gumbo is Madeleine’s identity: a stew of random fixings. She is Hispanic, Native American, and African American, and, because of her mixed bloodline, is interested in genealogy as well as the history of New Orleans. Madeleine’s work deals with unscrambling her identity. Among the writers she looks to for guidance are Anne Carson, Kimiko Hahn, and Anna Moschovakis.
Ashley Gong, Age 15; Sandy Hook, CT; Northeast Region
Ashley grew up surrounded by language, as her parents, first generation immigrants, would often read Chinese poems to her when she was a toddler. Despite this early exposure to poetry, her first venture into writing came in the form of prose. It wasn’t until more recently that she discovered her passion for poetry, which is currently her go-to medium for creative expression. She has learned to always keep a pen at hand, as she can often be found bursting into spontaneous spurts of poetry at any given place or moment. A junior at Newtown High School in Sandy Hook, CT, Ashley channels her love for writing, reading, reaching out, and leading into all aspects of her life. She’s the founder/president of the Latin Club, co-president of Global Voice (a human-rights club), and founder of the Newtown Middle School Latin Learning Program, which strives to instill a love for the Latin language in middle school students in her community.
Cameron Messinides, Age 17; Greenville, SC; Southeast Region
Cameron is seventeen years old and currently a creative writing student at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. He has been recognized with the Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Secondary School Poetry Prize, and his work has been published on The Atlantic’s website. He lives with his parents and five brothers and sisters, where, besides writing, he spends his time playing basketball, clumsily cooking dinner once a week, and helping raise the family goats.
Julia Falkner, Age 17; Louisville, CO; West Region
Julia is seventeen years old and a senior at Monarch High School in Louisville, Colorado. Most of her work is about adolescence, gender, and vulnerability. She co-runs her high school’s Writers Society as well as editing and producing the school literary magazine. Additionally, she absorbs as much art as possible. In the coming year she hopes to start a film project, read the collected works of Shakespeare, and complete a science-fiction novel. When she isn’t writing, Julia keeps a loaded AP schedule, plays electric keyboards and guitar, and runs cross country for her high school. She also works as a barista.
Congratulations National Student Poets! And, if you are an aspiring teen poet, or know someone who is, enter the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards to be considered for the next class of National Student Poets. Winning a national medal in poetry is the singular path to become eligible for the program. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards call for submissions is open now, click here to enter!