Amy Sonnie, Teen Outreach Librarian of the Oakland Public Library.
Oakland and Francisco Public libraries, in partnership with the national organization Youth Speaks, are staging competitions that will result in two Youth Poet Laureates, one from each city.
The winners will each be honored with $5,000 in scholarships and the opportunity to officially represent their communities through poetry, media, and public appearances. The search for talented young writers (ages 13-18) begins Sunday, April 1 – just in time for National Poetry Month – when judges will begin accepting submissions.
The deadline for all submissions is May 15. Finalists will be announced in early July, and the winners will be announced in September.
Through a competitive process judged by local leaders and celebrity authors, the Youth Poet Laureate initiative will celebrate exceptional teen poets who represent the best of the Bay Area.
The winning poet in each city will serve as an ambassador for arts, education and youth expression during a year of public service and academic enrichment, including publication of their work in an anthology.
Oakland-based poet Arisa White (author of Hurrah’s Nest, 2012) is one of several acclaimed writers volunteering to judge the competition.
“As a poet who believes in the transformative and healing power of poetry, it is necessary for me to support young people being active and influential citizens through their writing,” said White.
“Young writers today are at a crossroads,” said project coordinator Amy Sonnie, Teen Outreach Librarian of the Oakland Public Library. “Dwindling budgets for school arts and library media centers send mixed messages about the value of art and literacy.
“This first-of-its-kind contest celebrates the hard work of young poets who turn to paper and pen, the microphone and even YouTube to speak their truth and make us think deeply about our world,” she said.
Youth, parents and teachers can learn more and apply online at: www.youthspeaks.org/2012poetlaureate. To be eligible, finalists must be 13-18 years old and a current resident of the city for which they apply. .