The Prince George’s County’s Youth Poet Laureate for 2020 wants to raise awareness among other young writers in the county that there are opportunities available to publish their work in magazines, to apply to contests and to win scholarship money.
Marissa Michel of Bowie, a 15-year-old sophomore at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., also wants to host a poetry in the park event at Allen Pond to bring the community together to experience poetry socially, and wants to use her one-year term to encourage female empowerment.
Dialect of Prince George’s County created the youth poet laureate program, director Patrick Washington said in an email. Last year’s county Youth Poet Laureate Mi’Jan Credle was also from Bowie.
“The focus is on creating civic leaders dedicated to helping their communities through their art,” he wrote.
Michel said to do that she wants to spread awareness of publishing opportunities and awards like the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and Teen Ink magazine to the county’s young writers. She had people in her life who pointed her to those opportunities, and she wants to do the same for others. And the more she submitted and saw others support her work, the more she was encouraged and her interest in poetry affirmed.
“So that more ambassadors and teens in the county who have work can get it out there, even if they don’t know where to start,” she said.
Michel said she also wants to focus on female empowerment during her term, and through her free verse poetry.
In a recent poem, “Free Girl,” she writes about the different roles women including her mother, aunt and grandmother have played in her life.
“When the sun burnt down upon the scorched earth//She was filled with light and warmth."
Michel said she draws inspiration from her family members, and enjoys focusing on detailed imagery in her poems.
“It would be carved from the twisted branches of the olive tree//and wrapped in plume thistles,” she wrote in her poem “If I had a crown.”
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In a poem called “Second Generation American” she reflects on experiences her paternal grandmother shared with her about growing up in Haiti.
“I only know of scrapbook memories,//faded pictures and the creole flowing from your lips,//you say the sticky sweet of dous kokoye remains on your hands for a while,//keeps you stuck to the streets where the vendors are,” part of the poem reads.
“That poem was inspired by getting to have a conversation with my grandmother about what life was like for her, for her over there, what it’s like to live here now,” she said. “But it is also from my perspective of growing up in the U.S. but still thinking about these other countries and places and having that in my background.”
She also recently wrote a piece called “In Mayagüez," inspired by Puerto Rico and named for the town her mother was born in.
“Our mothers who pass down lessons like cooking recipes saying the same words a thousand times Niñita, escuchame. Little girl, listen. Dreams do not belong to us. Recuerda. Remember.”
“Quite a few of my poems have either Spanish words like thrown into them depending on the topic or Creole,” Michel said.
Michel will be performing at the No Excuse for Dating Abuse teen summit on Feb. 13 from 6-9 p.m. at Camelot by Martin’s in Upper Marlboro.