Newsela Brings U.S. Poet Laureate and National Youth Poet Laureate Finalists into Thousands of Classrooms Across the Country

April 20, 2022

New York, NY - Yesterday, Newsela wrapped up its 3-day speaker series with U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo and four National Youth Poet Laureate Finalists Elizabeth Shvarts, Isabella Ramírez, Jessica Kim, and Alyssa Gaines. As many as 45,000 students in over 1,500 classrooms participated in the sessions as the poets shared their work in celebration of Poetry Month, engaged in panel discussions, and took questions from the audience. 

“Poetry can open so many doors for young people, which is why I was thrilled to partner with Newsela to bring poetry into hundreds of classrooms,” said Joy Harjo, U.S. Poet Laureate. “Students of all backgrounds should have the opportunity to learn about and engage with poetry from a young age.” 

Following the event, Newsela has made selected works from Joy Harjo available on its platform and encouraged students to submit their own poetry, which will be published as well.

“Last year, millions of young people were able to watch the first Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, perform at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Over the past two weeks, students across the country were able to hear directly from her successors, right in their own classrooms,” said Jenny Coogan, Chief Content Officer at Newsela. “Having U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo and the National Youth Poet Laureate Finalists speak about the importance of art, poetry, and self-expression is an invaluable experience for young people who are just beginning to forge their own paths.” 

Below are excerpts from the work of the National Youth Poet Laureate Finalists, a program of Urban Word:

Elizabeth Shvarts, “Sidewalk Constellations”
It’s the dead of July and the city is abuzz
Splits sunbeam smiles in spite of everything
Not a season so much as conversation
Cicadas brush their wings chalk clinking

Isabella Ramírez, the A(ssimilation)merican Dream”
the DMV was not where
I had expected I would be unpacking
my Latinidad,
but there I was at ten years old
trying to tell the clerk my ethnicity
when my father squeezes my arm
and tells me
“we don’t look Hispanic.”

Jessica Kim, “Song for My City” 
I remember the scattered geese on the banks of Lake E, 
the barbecue pits and the kayaks I was too young for. 
I remember the autumn apples at the Farmer’s Market, 
the sugary raisin buns with hot chocolate on chilly winter days.

Alyssa Gaines, “east side everywhere”
there is an eastside everywhere
there is a corner store.
the pace moves like a slow and steady baseline
shaking the concrete
everywhere when your corporal compass tells you you’re there
“I’m out east.”