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'She shows us what's possible' | Amanda Gorman inspired local Youth Poet Laureates

Interest in youth poetry programs is growing

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — At the 59th Presidential Inauguration, the nation and the world were captivated by the words of 22-year-old  Amanda Gorman, who made history as the youngest inaugural poet. 

At 16, Gorman earned the title of Youth Poet Laureate for Los Angeles.  At 19, she was named the National Youth Poet Laureate.  

“She captured a moment perfectly, her eyes were wide open,” Patrick Washington, a powerful spoken word poet himself, said. "And then immediately my phone started ringing, I started getting text messages. Everybody was like, ‘Oh, so is that your friend? Is that your poet laureate?'"

Washington is now molding the next generation of poets as the executive manager of the Youth Poet Laureate program in Prince George’s County. He was also recently named the Director of Poetry for "Words, Beats and Life," which operates in D.C., Montgomery and Arlington. Washington said poetry is often an underrated art form, but these wordsmiths don’t do it for the praise.   

“You do it because it's meaningful to you,” he said. “I'm just happy to see the fierceness of these young poets.” 

This recent offer is certainly not the only opportunity that Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, will receive since her widely praised performance. BALTIMORE - The president of a historically Black university in Maryland was so captivated by inaugural poet Amanda Gorman's poem during President Joe Biden's inauguration that he offered her a job -- on Twitter.

Sainey Ceesay, 19,  is a student at Prince George’s Community College and the 2021 Prince George’s County Youth Poet Laureate.  

“I have the opportunity to speak with a lot of local elected officials and to kind of provide the youth perspective on issues,” she said. "[Gorman is continuing to show us what is possible."

Marissa Michel, 16, is a student at Sidwell Friends Academy.  She was named the County’s 2020 Youth Poet Laureate when she was only 15.

"Poetry is not just about validation,” she said. “It's such a powerful way to express yourself and such a powerful way for people to receive that as an art form. I’m very grateful for what Amanda did [Wednesday,]  because I think it truly did awaken a sense of how amazing that poetry can be in a lot of young people.” 

Ceesay agreed, adding that was powerful to see a fellow Youth Poet Laureate on the inaugural stage. 

Gorman is hosting a virtual poetry reading at Montgomery College on Feb. 2.  

The Youth Poet Laureate Programs in Montgomery and Arlington Counties are accepting applications now until Jan. 31.

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