Santa cruz county youth poet laureateLiterature Local News 

County’s Youth Poet Laureate Finalists Selected

Five finalists have been selected for the Santa Cruz County Youth Poet Laureate designation, a project of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries, and the Santa Cruz County Poet Laureate (SCCPL) in partnership with Urban Word. The finalists are Madeline Aliah, Simon Ellefson, Sylvi Kayser, Dina Lusztig, and Gregory Souza. The selection process was a months-long effort and included writing and performance workshops with support from the Watsonville Library. 

Judges Farnaz Fatemi, writer and Santa Cruz County’s Poet Laureate for 2023/2024; Jennifer Ruby, poet & San Lorenzo Valley High School. teacher; Julia Chiapella, poet & educator; and Tashi Liem, Santa Cruz High School grad and 2023 Poetry Out Loud Santa Cruz County champion all reviewed the applications.

Applicants submitted five original poems and a resumé. Each finalist will also be asked to read one of their poems in person for the judges later this month. All finalists receive a $100 cash honorarium with the Youth Poet Laureate receiving $500. All finalists will also receive a gift card donated by Two Birds Books.

“I was delighted by the caliber and passion of all our applicants this inaugural year, and I’m especially gratified that we were able to name these five youth poets as our cohort.” said Fatemi, who facilitated the development of the Youth Poet Laureate program. “It is clear they have each found ways to use poetry to ​make their own lives more meaningful and that they will serve, in individual ways, to support their peers and our broader community. I’m so excited to see how that will unfold. I am also deeply grateful to a host of local organizations who have given or pledged support for this program as we build it. This includes, of course, the Santa Cruz Public Libraries for housing the program long-term, but also the County Office of Education, the Arts Council of Santa Cruz County and the Rotary Club of Santa Cruz. All these organizations share the vision of sustaining a community of civic-minded teen poets who can support each other countywide.” 

The Youth Poet Laureate serves a one-year term and acts as an advocate and county ambassador for poetry, social action, and civic engagement. They champion their own poetic practice while encouraging their peers to take part in the art form through readings, workshops, and events throughout the county. All finalists will also have opportunities to support their peers along with the Youth Poet Laureate to strengthen ties across the county and nurture a community of young poets.

The Santa Cruz County Youth Poet Laureate (2024/2025) will be announced at a free celebration at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center on Wednesday, April 10, at 6:00 pm. Details are forthcoming. 


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