Student Poetry to Promote Youth Voice and Choice

Student Poetry to Promote Youth Voice and Choice

As April comes to an end, we want to celebrate the end of National Poetry Month by spotlighting amazing work by a student poet. Through rhythm and simile, DeAnthony Carter touches on themes of stereotypes and perceived limitations. His insightful commentary and ability to move beyond stem worlds perfectly ushers in our focus for May: youth voice and choice.

DeAnthony Carter is a junior at Purdue Polytechnic High School—an XQ school based in Indianapolis, Indiana—where educators are inspiring a new generation of problem solvers and innovators. At PPHS, innovation has always taken many forms. And, one form where DeAnthony really shines is creative expression.

For as long as DeAnthony can remember, he’s always been “into the art side of things. Poetry, music, singing, creative writing, all that type of jazz.” At school and in his community, DeAnthony has found ways to share his love for creativity with his trademark positivity. Most recently, DeAnthony showed off his artistic prowess in the Poetry Ourselves competition, a component of the National Endowment for the Arts’ annual Poetry Out Loud competition.

DeAnthony flew through regional competition and competed against two other student writers at the state level. DeAnthony and his poem Broken Expectations awed the judges and National Book Award finalist Carmen Giménez Smith named DeAthony the winner and a standout.

Inspired and floored by DeAnthony’s talent, we invited him to write about his experience during the competition as well as the inspiration behind his award-winning poem. Congrats to DeAnthony from the whole XQ team!

Read his reflection below:

Poetry Out Loud is a poetry recitation competition where students take the famous works of poets like Robert Frost and Maya Angelou and recite them. The goal of the performer is to capture the voice of the poem. Poetry Ourselves is a subcomponent of that competition and offers students the opportunity to recite their own work before judges. The competition is offered at the regional and state level: the three finalists from regional competition move to the state level and compete in the state finals. I submitted and performed my poem, “Broken Expectations.”

DEANTHONY READS HIS POEM, BROKEN EXPECTATIONS

The experience was truly amazing. Being in the presence of two Poet Laureates (one past, one present) and having the opportunity to share my story with others on the stage was incredibly inspiring. When I heard the judges announce that I had won first place, the feeling was indescribable. I could feel my legs shake and my heart race, and I knew that a huge smile had taken over my face. 

I wrote, “Broken Expectations” as a wake-up call. I want people to realize that the only limitations/expectations they have, should be the ones you set. No one can tell you that you can’t do something or you shouldn’t be able to do it, just because of your identity. The poem also addresses stereotypes, because being labeled by other people before they truly know you is painful. That’s why I alluded it to the idea of broken glass.

BROKEN EXPECTATIONS 

I find myself in the midst of shattered glass,

puncturing the soles of my shoes,

cutting the bottom of my feet.

Out of the pieces of glass,

I pick an unbroken piece.

It’s frigid to the touch;

dim like a midnight sky when the stars have fallen.

Written in luminous letters, is the word “stereotypes.”

I’m sweet like my chocolate skin portrays me to be,

not bitter like the taste of death

and less, is what you ignorantly consider me,

but we both share the same breath.

I stand in the midst of shattered glass,

puncturing the soles of my shoes,

cutting the bottom of my feet.

I live a life you have labeled poverty

and for years made a mockery.

What an atrocity!

Evidence of a scholarly

product of your animosity

because the inequality

that you threw couldn’t conquer me.

I stand in the midst of shattered glass,

puncturing the soles of my shoes,

cutting the bottom of my feet.

And even when you didn’t lend a hand

on my own two legs, here I stand;

in a land that thought they could end this man.

The descendent of the hands that built this land.

Oh, and isn’t it grand

that in the end,

my feet will be stained with blood and pierced with glass,

because I have crushed yet another one of your expectations.

MAKE SPACE FOR CREATIVE EXPRESSION

DeAnthony’s passion for creative expression led him to his success at Poetry Ourselves. More than that, this passion has helped DeAthony understand the value of education. “Creative writing allows me to see the bigger picture of education and how higher education can lead to a more successful career,” he said.

Most importantly, creative expression allows DeAthony to have a dialogue with the broken expectations that he’s already had to face in his young life. Clearly and confidently stating those experiences has made DeAthony stronger and prepared him to take on whatever comes next in school and life. That’s an important thing to hold onto, especially as we continue to navigate the many uncertainties students, families, and educators must confront during the crisis that’s affecting so many.

Right now, encouraging learners of all ages to engage in acts of creative expression may help them deal with the unknown, and find their way through it.

During school closures, it’s important for educators to encourage students to engage in creative projects to help them work through overwhelming feelings of anxiety and stress. How are you and your school getting that done? Send an email to  [email protected].