Hannah Laga-Abram hasn’t felt much like writing since her school closed a few of weeks ago, sending her home to Santa Fe months early from her freshman year at Middlebury College in Vermont. But in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, she is preparing for “A Night of Youth Poetry,” a live-streamed reading for Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse.
“I am a big believer in sharing poetry face-to-face, so this is really weird and uncomfortable for me, but I think it’s really important at this time. During all this social distancing and isolation, we need to know that there is a community out there,” says Laga-Abram, 19, the first Youth Poet Laureate of Santa Fe.
Reading from her house, she’ll be joined virtually by four other young female poets, reading from their homes: Adrienne Rugg, 17, and Hailey Thompson, 13, both of whom placed in Pasatiempo’s 2019 Writing Contest; Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay, named the first Nashville Youth Poet Laureate in 2015, who is now in her early 20s; and Joycelen Shroulote, 13, from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo.
Shroulote plans to read three poems about love, friendship, memory, and the trauma of colonialism. Her long-lined, narrative poems have a potent, direct voice. In “look into the passed downs” she writes:
Before i walk into the building i keep in mind not
to forget where i came from because if i do my
kids will too
As i walk into the building i then noticed i’m the
only one with a brown skin down my body and
the eyes on me
Like the whispers of the room were more like
screams in my ear telling me how i wasn’t like
“The thing that draws me to poetry and writing are mainly just things that I feel are important, and things that should be addressed in our society,” Shroulote says. “I’m mainly inspired by my close friends, community, history, and family.”
Laga-Abram writes with a commitment to social consciousness and appreciates poetic forms for the way they allow her to focus on specific moments. She says that the current crisis is leaving her feeling tumultuous and confused rather than inspired to write, but that she needs to put pen to paper. She won’t choose her poems until the day of the reading because she’s hoping to write a few new things before then.
“What I hope that people get from the poetry reading is that there are other people still making art and still wanting to share beauty,” she says. “And maybe that can be a little bit of inspiration to paint or draw or write or go out for a walk. Whatever can give people that little extra push — because I think I need that right now. I need to know that there are other folks out there still doing really beautiful work.”
The poetry readings stream at 6 p.m. Friday, March 27, at collectedworksbookstore.com.