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.
2023 Austin Youth Poet Laureate & Finalists
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.
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
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
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"
- 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