“The Poet Diaries”: Giving the Gift of Poetry

The following is a guest post by the inaugural National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman. This is the third in a series of monthly blog posts that Amanda will be writing during her laureateship this year. 

Amanda Gorman, L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth Celebration 2017. (Photo credit: Cindy Ord/Getty Images North America).

This week something miraculous happened: I got a poem from my Secret Santa. Now, this might not seem that incredible, but I spend most of my holiday seasons writing poems for other people. For the first time, someone wrote one for me. What was sweet is that the author doesn’t come from a poetry background—she’s actually my roommate, and the friend who I always seek out when I need computer help ASAP. But on a cute, cream-colored card she’d scribbled a few rhymes, reminding me of how wonderful a gift poetry can be.

With the holiday season coming at us full throttle, for this poet diary entry I’m taking the time to reflect on how words can be thoughtful presents to give and also receive. For example, right before Thanksgiving I had the pleasure of teaching a workshop at Fayerweather Street School in Massachusetts. I love working with young students, especially elementary-aged kids, because of how quickly they get excited at the prospect of using words creatively. The students made a yellow sign (yellow being my favorite color) that reads “Let the poems begin,” and it touched me so deeply that I hung it on my door.

I also had the honor of attending the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth awards, honoring women from around the country making an impact. Every honoree shared a few words about her work and inspiration—from Lulu Cerone, who founded LemonAID Warriors at 10 to integrate activism into teens’ social lives, to Shandra Woworuntu, a survivor of human trafficking who started Mentari, an empowerment program for survivors of human trafficking. Every word inspired and energized the crowd like electric gifts, and for this I’m thankful.  

All this is to say, who knows what a few kind and true words can do this holiday season? Whether you’re a poet or not, writer or not, a few thoughtful words can actually go a long way. Here are some prompts to get you started if you want to try being creative with your holiday card:

  1. Everyone loves a good rhyme. Try your hand at a few simple ones; you can always look at the classic A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore for inspiration.
  2. Rhyming not working out? Try an acrostic poem, where every first letter spells out a word. I always try the recipient’s name, or a word of gratitude.
  3. When all else fails, try writing whatever comes from the heart.

Happy holidays!

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