Tuesday, June 27, 2017


youth poet

Ahkei Togun, a senior at Tallwood High School, Virginia Beach is the 2016 Virginia Poetry Out Loud Champion for the second year in a row. He was among 12 regional finalists who competed for the championship in Richmond in March. Ahkei was selected from a statewide program with 8,000 Virginia students who participated at the classroom level before advancing to school-wide and regional competitions.

In the final recitation round for the top three finalists, Ahkei took top honors reciting “Bereavement” by William Lisle Bowles. He received a $200 cash award and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, DC, to compete for the national championship this spring. His school received a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books.  First runner-up was Charisma Henry, a sophomore at Woodson High School (Fairfax) and second runner-up was Elizabeth Lilly, a senior at Norfolk Academy (Norfolk). Supporters can cheer-on Ahkei at the national finals at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC on May 2-4, 2016 or through a live webcast at www.arts.gov.

Raven Bland, Norfolk’s first Youth Poet Laureate, recently released her book of original poems, entitled “When The Raven Sings…”. The book release on April 14 was part of the Hampton Roads Youth Poet Laureate Program, and included a meet & greet and book signing at Barnes & Noble, McArthur Mall in downtown Norfolk. Raven is a member of TWP-The Youth Movement, Teens With a Purpose, which teamed up with award-winning literary arts organization, Urban Word and youth organizations around the country for the Norfolk Youth Poet Laureate project in 2015. She was selected as Norfolk’s first youth poet laureate at the 2015 HRYP Slam held at ODU’s University Theater. 

This project is supported nationally by PEN Center USA and the Academy of American Poets, regionally by Senator Kenneth Alexander and Senator Mark Warner and locally by Mayor Paul Fraim. Raven is a graduate of Granby High School, and currently is a history major at Old Dominion University. She will relinquish her title on May 6th at the Hampton Roads Youth Poetry Slam program to one of five 2016 candidates who have competed before a panel of esteemed judges. The youth poets, who are also leaders and civic minded young people, recently shared their passion to lead and serve as well as their creative skills as poets, and orators with the hopes of becoming the 2016 Hampton Roads Youth Poet Laureate. 

The 2016 winner will receive a book deal, tour of their city’s library plus he or she will receive national recognition on the Youth Laureate website and Poetry Society of America’s website and engage in numerous other events during their reign. The May 6th Hampton Roads Youth Poetry Slam will be held at the Virginia MOCA Museum in Virginia Beach from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. where the new Youth Poet Laureate will be announced. Raven will be available for a meet & greet during this event, Teens With a Purpose Our mission: TWP-The Youth Movement, also known as Teens With a Purpose, is a 501(c) (3) non-profit youth development organization. TWP’s mission is “to create a platform to empower young people to use their voices, energy, abilities and talent to demonstrate their power to effect personal change and positively impact the lives of others through the arts, peer-led programs and events. Workshops are offered in collaboration with Norfolk Recreation, Parks and Open Space at the VCM Teen Center Monday – Thursdays. For additional, information visit our website www.TWPTheMovement.org.

By Judith Stevens
Special to the NJ&G

Poet Ernesto Cardenal served as the Minister of Culture in the revolutionary government of Nicaragua.  In 1980 he was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Publishers Association. This Guatemalan poet, author of “Los Ovnis de Oro,” (Golden UFO’s), also offers a probing look at American Indians.  A Trappist priest, colleague and friend of Thomas Merton, the poet, Ernesto Cardenal has been compared to Ezra Pound and the Chinese poets for his use of ideograms – the superimposition of images, often a juxtaposition of past and present, giving two different or ironically identical images that create an unsuspected third powerfully dynamic image.

    Cardenal says that the poet is the “Keeper of the Word.”  He says he is attempting “poetic integration” – a search for unity, by using exterior stimuli and internal responses, showing that poetry can be both intimate and public at the same time – poetry containing both history and wisdom.  Cardenal has said, “The only way for mystical union is that of release, the renouncing of everything , and that ‘s what I had to do upon entering the monastery.”

    Ernesto Cardenal’s prophetic/revolutionary vision allows him to write political/mystical  poems, economic/reality poems, social/religious poems – contemporary images versus mythic reality (mystic versus modern) – in a form that is enlightening.  Even a revolutionary ideogram – the juxtaposition of the dual reality of priest and revolutionary can render the poem as incantation – poems that are prayers, and at the same time, a call to action. Cardenal says, “For me, poetry is above all, prophesy in the Biblical sense of guidance.  My preoccupation is that of writing a poetry which serves others in communicating its meaning.”

     From his poem, Golden  UFO’s…

“I heard them talk
about a tree of knowledge
laden with fruit,
with water and whirlpools in its roots
 so fishes could live.
 And a snake fallen from the tree…” 

And from “The Secret of Machu Picchu,”  

“…everywhere stone ramps and staircases
leading to deserted plazas, empty towers…
This fortress was never a fortress…
Machu Picchu is now for tourists…
The roads of Machu Picchu lead inward.”

    Finally, writing about the North American western plains in “The Ghost Dance,” Cardenal imagines SItting Bull, prophet and wise man of the Ghost Dance Movement, a belief in the return of the buffalo and the disappearance of the white man:

“…The Ghost Dance was without weapons
night after night dancing the sacred dance
There were tribes that left their firearms
and even everything made of metal
‘everything as it was before the whites…”

Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was an American poet and teacher who was born on June 7, 1917, in Topeka, Kansas. She was the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer prize when she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1950 for her second collection, Annie Allen. Throughout her career she received many more honors. She was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968, a position held until her death[ and Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1985.

Brooks published her first poem in a children’s magazine, American Childhood, when she was 13 years old. By the time she was sixteen, she had compiled a portfolio of around 75 published poems and had her work critiqued by poet and novelist James Weldon Johnson. At seventeen, she started submitting her work to “Lights and Shadows,” the poetry column of the Chicago Defender, an African-American newspaper. Her poems, many published while she attended Wilson Junior College, ranged in style from traditional ballads and sonnets to poems using blues rhythms in free verse.
Her characters were often drawn from the inner city life that Brooks knew well. She said, “I lived in a small second-floor apartment at the corner, and I could look first on one side and then the other. There was my material.”[3] Brooks taught extensively around the country and held posts at Columbia College Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago State University, Elmhurst College, Columbia University, City College of New York, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks died on December 3, 2000[3] in Chicago, IL.

We Real Cool
By Gwendolyn Brooks

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.