National Student Poets Program

The National Student Poets Program—a collaboration of the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers—strives to inspire other young people to achieve excellence in their own creative endeavors and promote the essential role of writing and the arts in academic and personal success. The program links the National Student Poets with neighborhood resources such as museums and libraries, and other community-anchor institutions and builds upon the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers’ long-standing work with educators and creative teens through the prestigious Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. The Poets’ appointment events are hosted in cooperation with the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and held in conjunction with the National Book Festival.

National Student Poets promote the reading, writing, and appreciation of poetry among youth and the general public during their year of service. Through community service projects they design, as well as regional events and workshops, the National Student Poets encourage creative self-discovery, impart new skills, and inspire their peers to dream big and work hard to achieve those dreams. They will also work with poet mentors and serve as a resource for the Library of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education throughout the year.

National Student Poets are selected from a pool of National Medalists in Poetry through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the exclusive pathway to be considered for the Program. Each year, from this pool of Awards recipients, 35 semi-finalists are identified through blind adjudication as the most gifted young poets in their regions, based on their originality, technical skills, and personal voice. These students are asked to submit additional poetry and performance videos, and their work is then submitted to a distinguished jury for the final selection of five National Student Poets, based not only on the Scholastic Awards’ criteria, but also on creativity, dedication to craft, and promise. The 2018 jurors included: Jennifer Benka (Poet and Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets); Cortney Lamar Charleston (Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Fellow and Cave Canem Fellow); Diana Goetsch (Award-winning poet and National Endowment of the Arts Fellow); Juan Felipe Herrera (21st U.S. Poet Laureate); Edward Hirsch (poet and President of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation); Al Letson (Poet and Host of State of the Re:Union); Adrian Matejka (Poet and winner of National Poetry Series and NAACP Image Award); January Gill O’Neil (Award-winning poet and Cave Canem Fellow); Alice Quinn (Executive Director of the Poetry Society of America); Damian Woetzel (President of Juilliard and recipient of the Harvard Arts Medal).

The Class of 2018 is appointed by the Librarian of Congress and the Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., held in conjunction with the National Book Festival where the National Student Poets also participate in a poetry reading and a private meeting with 22nd U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. Students also receive $5,000 academic awards.

Students in grades 10–11 who are interested in becoming a 2019 National Student Poet can submit their work to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards at Submissions are open throughout the fall. Deadlines vary by region.

Meet the Class of 2018 National Student Poets

Darius Atefat-Peckham
Region: Midwest

Daniel Blokh
Region: Southeast

Alexandra Contreras-Montesano
Region: Northeast

Heather Laurel Jensen
Region: Southwest

Ariana Smith
Region: West