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Knoxville looking for first-ever Youth Poet Laureate

In addition to speaking at local schools and getting their work published, the winner will travel to New York City to participate in the Youth Poet Laureate program.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The City of Knoxville is searching for its first Youth Poet Laureate.

The student selected will be a young writer and leader "committed to civic and community engagement, diversity and tolerance and youth voice across the City of Knoxville," according to the Knoxville Writer’s Guild.

"I'm so glad that our students are going to have a voice because the young people in Knoxville, I believe that their voice can lead us into a new place," said Knoxville's Poet Laureate Rhea Carmon.

Carmon, who now performs as RheaSunshine, memorized a poem for the first time in elementary school. It was "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes.

"It was something that we had to do at the elementary school that I was in. We had to memorize poems by Black authors, and I absolutely loved it," she recalled.

Carmon began writing and performing poetry shortly after that. 

She has been Knoxville's Poet Laureate since 2018 and will work closely with the student selected to serve as the Youth Poet Laureate.

As a middle school teacher in Oak Ridge, Carmon sees first-hand what young people in East Tennessee are capable of. “Young people have always been on the precipice of change in our country. So, they can do it using their words and writing through poetry."

Students ages 13 to 19 who live in Knoxville may apply for the program.

Applications are due February 18.

The final selection will take place in April, which is National Poetry Month.

In addition to speaking at local schools and getting their work published, the winner will travel to New York City to participate in the national Youth Poet Laureate program.

Click here to apply.