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Meet The Finalists Vying To Be The Next National Youth Poet Laureate (Rebroadcast)

Amanda Gorman, the very first National Youth Poet Laureate, performs her original poem "The Hill We Climb" at President Biden's inauguration.
Amanda Gorman, the very first National Youth Poet Laureate, performs her original poem "The Hill We Climb" at President Biden's inauguration.

Following the original broadcast of this show in May, Alexandra Huynh was selected as the youth poet laureate! Congratulations, Alexandra!

Most of us are familiar with the honorable title of U.S. Poet Laureate.

Well, young people write poetry, too — and the kids are more than alright.

Since 2017, the National Youth Poet Laureate program has named an annual poet laureate who’s under the age of 20.

You may know its very first honoree: Amanda Gorman. She performed her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of President Joe Biden in January.

The program is set to name its new National Youth Poet Laureate later this month. So we’re getting to know three of this year’s finalists: Serena Yang, Alora Young, and Alexandra Huynh.

What role does poetry play in their lives — and their community?

We asked each poet to perform an original poem on the air. Here they are:

RAGE (WOMAN) by Serena Yang

In the aftermath,

I show you the pictures.

I say, woman. Mother. Aunt. Auntie.

Woman. Jiejie, meimei, ayi, here

are so many women. Here is my grandma,

whose rage was a bird with the wind

beneath her wings. The Chinese word

for “anger” also means “air.”

When she ran away from home,

waigong would go out on the streets

calling her name, like bringing a dog

to heel. Their three young daughters

following. Some of my mother’s

earliest memories are of searching

the night for her mother,

who wasn’t missing at all,

just breathing. Her rage

like a light that makes all

who love her move.

I don’t want to talk

about who hates us,

or why we must be afraid.

I want to know that you

are alive, and precious.

I don’t need to know your name

to call you auntie. Sister.

I want to ask you:

Who do you love?

Who is your daughter?

What do your women

dream about?

Inheritance by Alexandra Huynh

Even as I untether myself

from this built world,

I know I exist.

The battles continue

where my feet stand;

I need no pictures to prove it.

The celebrations live

inside my bloodline;

I need no ribbon to prove it.

I am already a triumph.

Every day I breathe.

And years from now,

when I become ancestor

I will tell them all about

the courage of distance;

how we learned to

hold space instead of hands.

I will them about

the color of courage;

how loss echoed through

an entire generation

and the children became teachers;

learned love is not defined by age

I will tell them of this land

we ripped from a people

we can never repay,

but we will try & try

I will tell them about the way

a footstep can be felt

on the other side of the planet

So mind your sole.

Move only in truth.

You have inherited this silence;

now make it sing

Requiem: Laying to rest the souls of the dead things like a name, like a dream, like a sin, like a parent by Alora Young

For every child who lost a loved one to covid-19


some memories catch on the back of the throat

just can’t be made to rest

In morning garb, tungsten&charred   delirium

etch themselves in occipital lobes

Leaves an ache like solemn a vow or preachers robes

Love and pain are the same, a simple axiom

as god sewed loss in the veins of Job

I dare you to call it a requiem


funerals make life long songs one note

daydream that sums of symphonies live in the echos left

burn in the furnace of the mind with no lifeboat

fester under, wonder why loss feels more like theft

there aren’t words to explain the dept of death

pamphlets passed out filled with false compendiums

silent churches sing no verses of bereft

I dare you to call it a requiem


we never stop wondering why this is all God wrote

how dare God leave me with the aching in my chest

after every prayer I crafted all that we devote

he still took you from us sternly deaf to each protest

hoping if I preach enough then maybe I can rest

that I won’t see their face in my reflection

sing softly words to songs that they professed

I dare you to call it a requiem


people tell me mourning is like any other quest

I search everywhere except where they buried them

I wrote a letter that I never sent stamped or addressed

And I dare you to call it a requiem

Copyright 2021 WAMU 88.5

Kathryn Fink
Kathryn Fink is a producer with NPR's All Things Considered.