What’s It Like Being Youth Poet Laureate, Anyway?
November 7, 2017
By: Lily Baumgart, 2017-18 Seattle Youth Poet Laureate
Simple answer: amazing. When I was announced as the 2017/18 Youth Poet Laureate, I was in shock. My uncle had taken a video of Matt Gano announcing the winner and for days afterwards I’d watch that video over and over, making sure that it was my name that had been called.
I am still in shock and to some extent, disbelief. Sometimes it feels like too much responsibility for me; I go to school, I work, I do circus arts; without a schedule I have to conform to, writing can easily slip into an afterthought. But through the YPL program, I have been granted a reason to write seriously, to put it on the top of my to-do list. I am grateful for the responsibility and opportunity that come with the title.
The YPL Program is designed to give voices to youth writers who are committed to their poetry and civic engagement. Having been granted this position, this year has given me not only a louder voice, but it has also made people take me and my writing legitimately. I work closely with my two incredible writing mentors, Matt Gano and Aaron Counts, to edit my work, come up with lesson plans, and compile my manuscript. They are the light at the end of the tunnel—I can’t even begin to imagine working through this experience without them. With this title, I have also been able to branch out from SAL events to others, like guest teaching at the Hugo House and reading at the Teeny Awards.
Although all of these opportunities are incredible and wonderful, my favorite part of being the Youth Poet Laureate is getting to work with the other amazing writers in my cohort. I enjoy their company and I love spending time with other teenagers who are just as passionate, if not more, about poetry as I am.
Getting to participate in workshops with them and bounce ideas off of each other has propelled me into types of writing I thought I’d never see myself write—I have grown immensely as a writer in the 2016/17 Finalists Cohort, as equally as I see myself improving this year as Youth Poet Laureate. We not only encourage greatness in each other’s work, but we are willing to recommend resources and provide contacts to each other to further our writing careers. It is a very giving community that I experienced with the 2016/17 cohort, and I hope to foster this in the 2017/18 cohort as well.
There are so many features of the YPL Program that excite, intrigue, and educate me, but I cannot skip my excitement for my forthcoming book. In all honesty, I have no clue what the printed version of my manuscript will look like; I’m constantly in a state of editing, a process I enjoy more than any other aspect of writing because when I am initially generating work, I don’t always know what I’m attempting to say. Editing gives me the chance to see what I truly want a poem to exude. It allows me to play with sound, line breaks, diction, and visual components of a poem.
There are no finished poems—only different times you have seen them. As I start to realize that I won’t be able to update every poem in my book after it’s been published, I am learning to live with those inseparable past-selves, and realizing that my own growth is the essence of what I will have gained from being Seattle’s Youth Poet Laureate.
Lily Baumgart is Seattle’s 2017/18 Youth Poet Laureate. She has been writing ever since she could spell. Before being the Youth Poet Laureate, Baumgart was in the Finalists’ Cohort for the 2016/17 YPL season. She also was a part of the inaugural Jack Straw Young Writers Program 2015/16. She believes that writing is forever changing the lives of writers and readers. Her favorite part of writing is being able to teach poetry to people and learn from those she works with; for her, poetry is a constant state of growth. She has read and taught around the Seattle area, and her forthcoming book through Penmanship Books will be out in May of 2018.