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18-Year-Old Alexandra Huynh Named US' Next National Youth Poet Laureate

The second-generation Vietnamese-American 18-year-old who considers poetry a matter of self-expression and social justice will help spread and advocate for poetry in America.

Last week, Alexandra Huynh was officially named the National Youth Poetry Laureate during a virtual ceremony presented by the Kennedy Center and by the literary arts and development organization Urban Word. She was chosen from among four regional finalists.

The position, which involves holding workshops and visiting students around the country, was founded in 2017. It gained national prominence this year when the previous title-holder, Amanda Gorman, went viral for her reading at President Joe Biden's inauguration, followed by a reading at the Super Bowl. Huynh noted: “Her trajectory has changed what I thought was possible for a poet...She has encouraged me to dream big.”

Much of Huynh's work focuses on the traumas and tragedies that people in America and Vietnam face, including California's wildfires and central Vietnam's flooding, as well as her identity as a Vietnamese American. “It does feel a lot of the times that to be a Vietnamese-American is to live a contradictory truth. And what I mean by that is that I am constantly balancing two identities, and they can exist in parallel,” she explains.

The self-proclaimed introvert began writing song lyrics as a young child and transitioned to poetry as "a way to process my emotions and share it with people in a way that felt very safe for me."

Her Vietnamese identity is at the core of her artistic identity. “Vietnamese itself is a very poetic language. In Vietnamese culture, poems are spoken every day. They’re pop culture references. For me, having poetry in my life never felt like I was going against the grain,” she says.

Huynh will enroll in Stanford University's engineering program in the fall. She says that words come so naturally to her that she doesn't need to study poetry, and thus wants to explore a subject that will challenge her in a different way.

You can read one of Huynh's poems here via the Washington Post.

[Photo via Movies and TV]