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4 students now Pleasanton's Teen Poet Laureates

New group follows tradition started in 2012

According to the free encyclopedia Wikipedia, the honor of being selected poet laureate dates back to the classical age of 1315 and the Italian Albertino Mussato. In modern times, the title is most often conferred by a poetry organization or a league or, most recently, by the Pleasanton Civic Arts Commission.

Charlene Villella was named the city's first poet laureate in 1998. Charlene died in 2005, but not before creating teen poetry workshops, which led to the creation of a Teen Poet Laureate position in 2012. Seven have now served two-year appointments.

Now we have four teens serving as poet laureates, providing specially composed poetry to read at civic events and even before the City Council when they were handed the titles. They are:

Kyler Juarez, a senior at Amador Valley High. She says her writing has been a catharsis, bringing peace during a difficult time in her young life. She was able to channel her emotions into her pen rather than a therapist. This is her second term as a Pleasanton Teen Poet Laureate.

Last year, she organized an event for seniors at Ridgeview Commons, where she and several others from Amador read and discussed poetry with residents. This year, her goal is to oversee a school project where students write poems to honor the military, publish them in a booklet and send them to a base overseas.

Nithya Swaminathan, a junior at Amador, loves to write and help others. She's been writing stories and poems since she was very young, and has had poems published in a Web magazine called "Teen Ink." She says poetry has helped her find her sense of self as an Indian American.

One of her goals as Teen Poet Laureate is to create a middle school-age after-school poetry club. She also wants to establish a lunchtime poetry club at Amador.

Irene Sha carries a heavy academic load at Foothill High, where she's a junior. She has four Advanced Placement classes, plays sports and is involved in the school's music programs. Even so, she is passionate about writing poetry, which she's been doing since sixth grade. She favors poems that express emotions of anger, sadness, joy and frustration.

Sha also wants to organize poetry nights in Pleasanton, possibly at school sites. She plans to use her poet laureate position to organize poetry readings for hospitalized children.

Kyle Mular, a Foothill senior, moved to Pleasanton recently from New York state. He has excelled in the literary arts in school and has published a collection of dark and whimsical poetry.

A voracious reader who enjoys classic literature, Mular says he wants to organize uncensored, youth-centric slam poetry events to be held at the Firehouse Arts Center.

Teenagers interested in serving as poet laureates should contact Julie Finegan, visual arts coordinator, by email at jfinegan@cityofpleasantonca.gov or by calling 931-4849.

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Nominations due by Sept. 17

Pleasanton Weekly and DanvilleSanRamon.com are once again putting out a call for nominations and sponsorships for the annual Tri-Valley Heroes awards - our salute to the community members dedicated to bettering the Tri-Valley and the lives of its residents.

Nomination form