First Lady Michelle Obama hosts a poetry reading in honor of the 2016 National Student Poets, from left: Maya Salameh, Joey Reisberg, Gopal Raman, Maya Eashwaran and Stella Binion in the State Dining Room of the White House on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016 in Washington.
First Lady Michelle Obama hosts a poetry reading in honor of the 2016 National Student Poets, from left: Maya Salameh, Joey Reisberg, Gopal Raman, Maya Eashwaran and Stella Binion in the State Dining Room of the White House on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016 in Washington. (Kevin Wolf / Kevin Wolf/AP Images for Scholastic, Inc.)

His first poem, written in second grade during a particularly uneventful keyboarding class, was about the raindrops just outside the window.

The poem was prized by his teacher and immediately pinned with a red thumbtack to the bulletin board for all to see. At that moment, Joey Reisberg decided to be a poet.

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Thursday, the 17-year-old was inducted as one of five National Student Poets by First Lady Michelle Obama in a White House ceremony. The designation is the nation's highest honor for youth poets under a program launched in 2011.

"Joey is one of those rare students bursting with a strong, original voice," said one of his favorite teachers, Rebecca Mlinek in an e-mail. She described him as self-deprecating, funny and supportive of his peers.

Following a reading at the White House, the public will be able to hear Reisberg and the others read their poetry at the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery in the late afternoon.

The poets each represent a different region of the country. Reisberg and his four fellow poets will serve for a year as poetry ambassadors, helping promote poetry and readings in various places in their region.

As a middle schooler, Reisberg said he stuck out at Krieger Schechter Day School, a Jewish school on Stevenson Road in Baltimore County. "I was always the nerdy one, the different one" who was writing in the corner, he said. Arriving two years ago at the George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson, a Baltimore County public school, he suddenly felt comfortable being himself.

The school's literary arts program included students just like him. "So when you are suddenly around people who like to write and read, you are really excited," he said, describing it like dogs meeting for the first time in joy. He also is grateful for the teachers and poets in the community who have encouraged and supported him, he said.

"Most teen writers are in the thick of struggling to write as themselves," Mlinek said. "I'm not saying that Joey is cemented in as a writer, but his writing is undeniably his own, and the charming vulnerability in his writing really does reflect his personality."

One of the poems in Reisberg's winning entry entitled, 13 Ways of Looking at a Mushroom after Wallace Stevens, begins:

1

Loamy dome

of soft fungus

fermented in the soil's spongy cauldron.

2

New York's hottest restaurant buzzes with Bohemian

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babbling and the pastoral punch of Portobello.

Reisberg was chosen from among the Scholastic Arts and Writing Gold Medal winners in poetry. The Scholastic awards are judged by a panel of professionals in the visual and literary arts. The awards, which are intended to identify students with unusual talent throughout the country, have been given for nearly a century.

Last year 320,000 works were submitted in the competition in 29 categories of art and writing. Students at Baltimore County schools won 17 of Maryland's 52 national awards last year, including all but two from Carver.

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