Austin Youth Poet Laureate


The Austin Youth Poet Laureate program aims to identify and uplift young writers and leaders who are committed to civic & community engagement, poetry & performance, human relations, diversity, social justice and education across Austin.

The Austin Youth Poet Laureate is a joint program of the Library Foundation and the National Youth Poet Laureate Program led by Urban Word, with additional support from the Austin Public Library.

Austin Youth Poet Laureate

2023 Austin Youth Poet Laureate & Finalists

From the left: Finalists Mina Talebi, Caitlin Garrett, Lili Xiong, Astrid Gothard, Cemi Edrich and the 2023 Austin Youth Poet Laureate, Brandee Benson.
Brandee Benson

Brandee Benson — 2023 Austin Youth Poet Laureate

Brandee Benson is a senior at Westwood High School. A National Merit Scholar semifinalist, Benson, who is Chinese American and fluent in Mandarin, is already a published poet with her work appearing in independent journals including the Breakwater Review and the Peatsmoke Journal. She has also been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

The 2023 Austin Youth Poet finalists are Cemi Edrich, Caitlin Garrett, Astrid Gothard, Mina Talebi, and LiLi Xiong.

Brandee Benson

What brought you to poetry? Was there any person or poet in particular that you feel inspired by?

Poetry has always played a key role in my life as an avenue for self expression. In elementary school, my dad would write me poems as lunchbox notes, which I've always kept and cherished. I'm also inspired by my mentor, Steven Espada Dawson, and poetry by Ocean Vuong — specifically, "Night Sky with Exit Wounds."

What are you inspired by? Are there any images or ideas that you feel you’ve understood betterby writing about them?

I'm especially influenced by themes of fruit, my cultural identity, and the intersection of the two. I believe that writing about human nature — uncertainty, hardship, and passion — is a tool to better understand and process the subconscious. Through my writing experience, I've learned to self-reflect and forgive.

What would you say to a young poet getting started writing poetry? Do you have any advice?

Appreciate work by other writers! Reading poetry by Ocean Vuong, Jenny Xie, Kaveh Akbar, and Ada Limón (I could go on all day) was not only a great deal of fun, but also helped me develop my own voice as a poet.


Listen to an interview with Brandee on KUT 90.5: Austin’s new youth poet laureate on poetry, identity and inspiration, Jan. 8, 2024

Previous Austin Youth Poet Laureates

2022 — Zachary Suri

Finalists: Josie Bednar, Astrid Gothard, Margot Gothard, Isabelle Morgan, Mina Talebi

Zachary Suri

Listen to an interview with Zachary on KUT 90.5: "Austin’s Youth Poet Laureate on making sense of feelings through poetry"



2021 — Ireland Griffin

Finalists —  Caroline Boyle, Elijah Kleinman, Keana Saberi, Zachary Suri, Ren Koppel Torres

Ireland Griffin

Listen to an interview with Ireland on KUT 90.5: "Austin's first youth poet laureate to young writers: Your work has value and deserves to be heard"





Anyone age 13-18 years old living in Austin, TX. As long as your address says you live in Austin, you are eligible to apply. Right now this program is only open to students living within Austin city limits. We hope to expand to surrounding counties in the future.
You don’t need to have any previous experience with performance or poetry in order to apply. We encourage all interested young writers to attend our free Application Workshops next summer. These workshops will walk you through the application process step by step--from drafting and generating poems to compiling a resume. Plus you’ll get to learn from other poets while you craft your own work. These workshops are free and open to all!
We seek applications from young people who are committed to the growth and development of their local communities. By “Civic Engagement,” we mean any regular activity, formally or informally sponsored, whereby the YPL applicant can strengthen and promote the quality of life in his or her community or school. By “Social Justice,” we mean any examples of praxis, commitment to equity and inclusiveness, activism and the fundamental right of youth to be outspoken. Examples include efforts in political activism, organizing, school participation, and volunteerism, as well as various educational and artistic initiatives. We require the submission of a CV, which is judged and scored, to add value to the mission and goals of this program.
We seek applications from young people who excel in the literary arts, using poetry as a tool not only for self-expression but civic engagement as well. We define literary excellence as any literary work that employs the tools of poetic craft— music, image, metaphor and simile, traditional forms (sonnet, villanelle, ghazal, and so on)—combined with a passionate artistic vision concerned, thematically, with matters of the heart, spirit, and mind; politics; identity; family and relationships; history; love in its many iterations; other art forms; or any aspect of the human experience, often at the intersection of any of the aforementioned, in order to explore and deepen our common humanity. Literary excellence is assessed via the poetry portfolio submission, and also merited in the CV with any history of awards/accolades for writing.
No, this program is entirely free.


  • Serve as a representative for youth voice and poetry in Austin
  • Be celebrated with a public event in the fall and participate in other readings and performances across the city
  • Be published in the National Youth Poet Laureate anthology
  • Be eligible to compete in the regional and national Youth Poet Laureate competitions and all national Youth Poet Laureate programming with other youth across the country
  • Have the opportunity to publish a chapbook through local press Host Publications

Questions? Contact Katherine Lamb at