We are thrilled to introduce your fifth 2014 National Student Poet Southwest region representative, Madeline LaCesne! Madeline, age 18, 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, each night she used the back of its headboard to scribble poetry into the wood. She lost this work in 2005, when the headboard and her home were washed away by Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans like her own identity is a blend of various cultures and bloodlines, so her work deals with unscrambling her identity and sparked an interest in genealogy as well as the city’s history. Among the writers she looks to for guidance are Anne Carson, Kimiko Hahn, and Anna Moschovakis.

Favorite quote about writing:

Quote from Milosz’s “Ars Poetica”: “The purpose of poetry is to remind us / how difficult it is to remain just one person.”

Fun fact:

Since I turned fourteen, the first thing I do as soon as I wake up on my birthday is read Richard Wilbur’s “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World” aloud. Read More

Introducing Cameron Messinides, your Southeast Region 2014 National Student Poet representative! Cameron, from Camden, SC, is a senior at South Carolina Governor’s School of the Arts & Humanities in Greenville, SC. A 17 year old creative writing student, Cameron was recognized with an honorary mention for 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.

Fun Fact:

Cameron loves Basketball. His favorite basketball player is Andre Iguodala.

Favorite Quote About Writing:

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”

- Gustave Flaubert Read More

Meet Julia Falkner, your West region 2014 National Student Poet representative! Julia is 17 and a senior at Monarch High School in Louisville, Colorado. Most of Julia’s work is about adolescence, gender, and vulnerability. She co-runs her high school’s Writers Society as well as edits and produces the school literary magazine,B-Sides. 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.

Favorite Quote About Writing:
“Poetry can move the fulcrum of the mind just enough so that the world becomes electrified and bewildering.”

Fun Fact:
Julia volunteers at a local neuroscience lab and is currently working on a project investigating pain tolerance. Read More

Ashley Gong, age 15, of Sandy Hook, CT is a junior at Newtown High School and your Northeast Region National Student Poet representative! She 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, Ashley channels her love for writing, reading, reaching out, and leading into all aspects of her life, including instilling a love of Latin among middle school students.

Favorite Quote About Writing:

“Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.” -Neil Gaiman

Fun Fact:

“I draw upon a wide variety of topics for inspiration, including music, history, science, and even math.” Read More

Announcing your Midwest Region 2014 National Student Poet, Weston Clark! 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.

Weston, who hails from Zionsville, IN and is a sophomore at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis, 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. Through his writing, Weston tries to evoke emotions in his audience. 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.” 

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The 2013 National Student Poets: Aline Dolinh, Sojourner Ahebee, Nathan Cummings, Michaela Coplen, and Louis Lafair.

Ten years ago, when I was still in high school, I received a National Portfolio Gold Medal from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for a chaotic clump of self-reflective poems I’d cobbled together and hoped would say something about who I was and who I hoped to be. I still remember the events that followed, although they’re hazy and hot and filmed over with the steam rising from cement on a New York afternoon in June: a start-of-summer, end-of-high-school blur that now revolves mainly around the numerous hors d’oeuvres I ate and how sore my feet were at the end of it all.

At that time, there was no National Student Poets Program—the program itself is only in its third year. Now, having returned, year after year, to volunteer during the National Events for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and editing The Best Teen Writing twice I’m the coordinator for the program. Read More