052119_coastal people

Glynn Academy students Lily Seeman, from left, Lisbel Ayala, Edith Vasquez-Reyes and Geoni Saxton were the winners of the 16th Annual Young Poets Award competition. The theme for this year’s competition was “different.”

“Poetry” often conjures up the image of quills and ink, tools of an antiquated art. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Poetry is very much alive and well from internationally acclaimed writers like Warsan Shire and Rupi Kaur to local students who put pen to paper to pour out their feelings.

For one group of Glynn Academy students, those talents were recently honored during the 16th Annual Young Poets Award. Sponsored by Eugenia Price/Joyce Blackburn Foundation in association with Golden Isles Arts & Humanities, the contest offers students the chance to flex their literary muscles. This year’s theme was “different,” allowing writers to explore a variety of topics centered around that idea.

This year’s winners included Lisbel Ayala, ninth-grade winner, who penned “Conformity Makes a Difference”; 10th-grade winner Lily Seemann for her “Untitled” poem; Edith Vasquez-Reyes, 11th-grade winner, submitted “Different”; and 12th-grade winner Geoni Saxton’s wrote the poem “I Am a Black Girl.” All winners are received a certificate and a check for $250.

The writers themselves embodied the theme, coming from various backgrounds and experiences. Some were old hands at writing while others were trying poetry for the first time.

But all have found something cathartic within the writing process.

“It’s like having a song stuck in your head but I’ll get these phrases, titles or feelings and I just weave them together,” Lily said. “I started when I was like 10 and whenever something bad would happen, I would just write it down and put it away for later.”

Like Lily, Lisbel Ayala has found a great sense of escape in writing. Poetry especially allows her to slip into a world all her own.

“I’m not one for writing nonfiction but this is your own fictionalized place that you can go when everything seems chaotic,” Lisbel said. “It’s your own universe, like clay in your hands, and you can mold it and shape it however you want.”

For Geoni, the process and theme allowed her to explore and share layers of her culture with readers. Her submitted work, “I Am a Black Girl,” offered a snapshot of common issues and prejudices that many face.

“Everything I write about is basically emotionally connected to my race and my gender,” she said. “I love participating and receiving awards for what I write.

“But I feel that even people who don’t invest their time in reading and writing everyone has the power to be a poet. It’s just expressing how you feel, which is why I love free verse. It’s just putting how I feel on a sheet of paper.”

While Geoni, Lily and Lisbel are old hands at poetry, it was Edith’s first brush with entering work into a contest.

“I don’t really write. My teacher told me about it and to do it for fun. I just wrote it,” Edith said with a laugh.

While the writers have plenty of time to decide on their future path, it’s a safe bet that their love of language will continue to guide their steps.

“I actually want to be a writing teacher and want to go the most at-risk place I can find and help people find or ground themselves through writing like I did,” Lily said.

Lisbel also hopes to continue her work.

“I want to learn how to write more grounded, to be more grounded in reality because my stories can get carried away but who knows maybe one day write a book one day,” Lisbel said.

Edith, while still undecided, has plenty of passions she plans to pursue.

“I’m stuck as to what to do ... I like this and I like that so I’m still trying to figure that out,” she said.

For her part, Geoni is already looking ahead.

“I started a business with my father, a roadside service business. When I go college, I plan on becoming a journalist then later an English teacher,” Geoni said.

Coastal People appears Tuesdays.Contact Lindsey Adkison at ladkison@thebrunswicknews.com or at 912-265-8320, ext. 346 to suggest a person for a column.

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