vital voices

September 19, 2017

Somehow, it escaped our notice that the U.S. now has a National Youth Poet Laureate. Spearheaded by the New York City youth literary arts organization Urban Word, the National Youth Poet Laureate program was founded in 2008 and has partnered with literary organizations in 35 cities (including Seattle and Portland) and states to name a local Youth Poet Laureate. Each winner is awarded a first book deal from Penmanship Books.

In this new phase of the program, to appoint a national winner, competitors from around the country were narrowed down to five finalists, each representing a geographic region. From the five ambassadors, Harvard sophomore Amanda Gorman was selected as the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate.

Ms. Gorman is the inaugural Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate, and founder and Executive Director of One Pen One Page, a nonprofit that promotes literacy and leadership through international storytelling initiatives and an online teen‐lit mag. She has served as a United Nations Youth Delegate in New York City, an ANNpower Vital Voices Fellow in Washington, D.C, and an ANNpower Vital Voices Global Delegate in London. She is an ambassador, editor, and leader of diversity initiatives at the online platform School of Doodle, and her work has been published in her book The One For Whom Food Is Not Enough, as well as The Wall Street Journal, Elle, and The Huffington Post.

Watch Amanda Gorman perform her poem “The Gathering Place” at the Social Good Summit 2017.

A Place for Words

December 28, 2013

Zephaniah - Text and the City

Here’s a UK project that has discovered numerous wonderful ways for words to escape the page. Founded in 2006, Urban Words is a literature consultancy that “specialises in projects which use creative writing as a way to explore and question our relationship to place.” The program is run by writer Sarah Butler.

One Urban Words project is A Place for Words, which is “the beginning of a conversation about the role creative writers can play in the regeneration of our towns and cities.” A Place for Words takes both temporary and permanent form, the latter including a series of collaborative public art projects involving poetry and architecture.

One of them, Text and the City, includes the work of Benjamin Zephaniah (shown), whose words were cut from the steel window guards of a student apartment block at Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. More photos here.
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photo by Paul Swales