2022 Nashville Youth Poet Laureate Application Available

Applications are now open for the 2022 Nashville Youth Poet Laureate!

The YPL program aims to identify young student writers who are committed to civic and community engagement, diversity and inclusion, and youth voice across Nashville. Students ages 13-19 who live in Nashville are eligible for consideration. Applications are due Friday, October 22, 2021 at 11:59 PM CT.

Applicants who advance will perform at a semifinal round on Thursday, November 18 at 4pm. The top three finalists will perform at the State at the Word in December, where one youth will be honored with the title of Nashville Youth Poet Laureate.

The Nashville Youth Poet Laureate is a joint program of the Office of the Mayor, Southern Word, Metro Human Relations Commission, Nashville Public Library, Metro Nashville Arts Commission, in partnership with Urban Word, and supported by the PEN Center USA, the Academy of American Poets, and the Nashville Public Library Foundation.

To Apply:

  • Applicants must be a Davidson County resident and between the ages of 13 – 19 years old.
  • Submit 3 original poems/raps/performances as word documents or video links. At least one of the submissions must address the themes of Human Relations, Diversity, and Positive Social Change.
  • Include a RESUME that has your name, address, phone #, and e-mail; and details all of your accomplishments, community service, after school programs, volunteer experiences, and awards.
  • Please EMAIL any documents you are unable to upload to info@southernword.org.
  • To ensure a range of applicants, only two poets from a school will be permitted to participate in the semifinals and only one poet per school will participate in the finals.
  • If selected, you must be available to perform at the semifinals on November 18 and the State of the Word in December.

Nashville Reads Special Opportunity (optional):

  • As part of the Nashville YPL selection process, applicants have an opportunity to submit a piece to perform before two-time Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Colson Whitehead speaks for the Nashville Public Library Foundation’s Public Lecture. This event will be held as part of Nashville Reads at Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet at 10am on Saturday, November 13th.
  • You may submit any poetic response to Colson Whitehead’s writing that is no more than 90 seconds when presented out loud. You can learn about him at www.colsonwhitehead.com.
  • If you need a prompt, you can respond to the following excerpt from Nickel Boys (pp. 26 – 27): “He couldn’t explain it, even to himself, until At Zion Hill gave him a language. We must believe in our souls that we are somebody, that we are significant, that we are worthful, and we must walk the streets of life every day with this sense of dignity and this sense of somebody-ness. The record went around and around, like an argument that always returned to its unassailable premise, and Dr. King’s words filled the front room of the shotgun house. Elwood bent to a code — Dr. King gave that code shape, articulation, and meaning. There are big forces that want to keep the Negro down, like Jim Crow, and there are small forces that want to keep you down, like other people, and in the face of all those things, the big ones and the smaller ones, you have to stand up straight and maintain your sense of who you are. The encyclopedias are empty. There are people who trick you and deliver emptiness with a smile, while others rob you of your self-respect. You need to remember who you are.”
    • Describe a moment when you were robbed of your self-respect and then remembered who you are.
    • In the phrase “the encyclopedias are empty,” a source of information and expertise does not turn out to be what he expects. Write about an experience when a source of information or expertise did not turn out to be what you expected.
    • Start by describing a concrete object such as a record player or encyclopedia. Make that concrete object a metaphor for a greater point you would like to make about people, race, and power.


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