Live @ the MACC Presents Hawai‘i’s First Youth Poets Showcase and Selection of First-Ever Youth Poet Laureate
The Maui Arts & Cultural Center presents Hawai‘i’s first-ever youth poet laureate presentations on Saturday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m. The event is part of the Live @ the MACC series and will be streamed live from the Castle Theater and presented publicly on the MACC website, Facebook and Youtube pages.
The event will include performances by the ten youth poet finalists, appearances and performances by several special guests and culminating in the announcement of the young poet selected to be the state’s first youth poet laureate, a title never before granted to a young person in the state.
Founded in 2008 by Urban Word, the National Youth Poet Laureate Program identifies and celebrates young poets who exhibit a commitment to artistic excellence, civic engagement, youth leadership and social justice. The socially-distanced event, taking place in the MACC’s Castle Theater, streams at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 24.
“The Youth Poet Laureate program shines a light on the brilliance of Hawai‘i’s youth,” said Dr. Moira Pirsch, Education Director at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center of the program. “In this year, where so many young people are facing challenging circumstances in their schools and communities, we’ve seen these brave young poets share their dreams for creating a better future – often through tiny phone screens and unreliable wifi. It is programs like these that remind us the future is in good hands and creative solutions are unfolding in the minds of young people. It is our hope that this program and other programs like this that lift the voices of young people will continue to grow and thrive in Hawai‘i.”
This year, MACC’s Education Department has been working with teachers and students statewide to encourage and prepare them for this opportunity. Finalist participants in this program range in age from ten to eighteen.
The significance and impact of a poet laureate was recently brought to dramatic life when the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, spoke during President Biden’s inauguration, showcasing her young, poetic voice that added her powerful perspective to the event. Her performance generated national and international acclaim and substantially enhanced awareness of the role of National Youth Poet Laureate.
The development of a Hawaiʻi youth poet laureate program at the MACC is the first collaboration between an arts organization and Urban Word, an award-winning youth literary arts and youth development organization that initiated the National Youth Poet Laureate Program. The organization collaborates with local youth literary arts organizations across the country to provide uncensored platforms for youth voice. It is championed by the leading national literary organizations, including the Library of Congress, the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Foundation, Cave Canem and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Special guests for the event, offering performances and some mentoring messages to the finalists, are Meera Dasgupta, current US Youth Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo, current US Adult Poet Laureate, Brandy Nālani McDougall, Maui-born poet and professor at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and Dr. Camea Davis, Director of the National Youth Poet Laureate Program.
The event will also highlight a visit by the youth poet finalists to the renowned Maui gardens of the late W.S. Merwin. The visit to the garden represents a bridging of the past and future of poetry in Hawai‘i, honoring both Merwin, a two time National Poet Laureate and the youth poet finalists.
Emcees of the event are Travis Kaululā‘au Thompson and Ittai Wong. Born and raised in Kalihi, Oʻahu, Travis T. is a nationally ranked slam poet, spoken word artist, educator and professional teaching artist for the MACC. Ittai Wong is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and educator, a published poet and two-time international grand slam champion, featured on the HBO documentary series, Brave New Voices.