Oakland's Youth Poet Laureate competition reached a milestone this week with the announcement of seven finalists. These talented young poets made it through a highly competitive and rigorous first round juried by esteemed judges, including accomplished authors, educators, and two youth judges. The Oakland Public Library, in partnership with Youth Speaks (the country's leading nonprofit presenter of spoken word performance, education, and youth development programs), is staging the competition, which will result in the city's first-ever Youth Poet Laureate. The winner will be honored with a $5,000 scholarship and the opportunity to officially represent his/her community through poetry, media, and public appearances. The winner will be announced in September.
First round evaluations were based solely on the strenth of the applicant's poetry. Judges looked for writing that demonstrated Overall Artistic Excellence, Bold Approach in Content and Form, Outstanding Creativity, Originality and Authenticity. The seven finalists represent the best of Oakland's young talent, while also reflecting the city's lauded diversity. They attend seven different schools and hail from six different zip codes. They are:
- Euna Bonovich, age 16, International High School of San Francisco
- Jose Saldona, age 18, Envision Academy of Arts and Technology
- Kerby Lynch, age 17, Oakland School for the Arts
- Robin Levy, age 16, Saint Joseph Notre Dame
- Stephanie Yun, age 18, Skyline High School
- Tele'jon Quinn, age 17, MetWest High School
- Victoria Kupu, age 18, Mills College
All finalists will gain mentorship and educational opportunities. They will also have their work published in an anthology (forthcoming in 2013). Their submissions will be forwarded to a panel of celebrity judges who will determine the winning Youth Poet Laureate by early September. In the final round of the competition, judges will review the applicant's poetry, an artist statement, and letters of recommendation. Celebrity judges volunteering their time include recently named California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and Oakland-based poets Kenji Liu, Arisa White, Juliana Spahr, and Joshua Merchant.
Youth Poet Laureate Finalists will make the following public appearances:
- July 21: Private Receiption for Finalists and Families (media welcome), 4:00pm - 5:30pm, Pro Arts Gallery, 150 Frank Ogawa Plaza
- July 21: Finalists receive medals of recognition from Mayor Jean Quan on stage during Brave New Voices poetry festival (brief photo opportunity), 7pm, Fox Theater, contact Oakland Public Library to arrange press pass
- August 4: Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Finalists' First Group Performance at Art & Soul Festival, 5:00 - 7:00pm, City Center Stage