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Exclusive Interview With the 2021 National Youth Poet Laureate

On January 20, 2021, Amanda Gorman made history at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, by delivering her powerful poem, “The Hill We Climb”.  Gorman had become the first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, eventually becoming an inspiration to all. 

As of this year, Mira Loma High School has its very own National Youth Poet Laureate, a graduate from the class of 2020. She is none other than Alexandra Huynh, now a freshman at Stanford University. 

In an interview with Chirag Kawediya, ‘21, Huynh recounts how her journey with poetry began. At just seven years old, Huynh became tired of singing songs that did not reflect her own experiences, so she began to write her own songs. Moving forward to her junior year of high school, she participated in the Youth Speaks Poetry Slam. Huynh reveals that she almost did not attend the event because she was nervous and did not know who else would be there. It was her twin sister Brianna who encouraged her to try anyway. 

Reflecting on her eventual decision to participate in the event, Huynh states that she was, “In awe that people wanted to know what she had to say,” and emphasizes how valuable it was to her that people wanted to hear about her personal experiences. She ended up receiving second place in the poetry slam, which encouraged her to continue writing. In 2020, she received recognition when she won the title of Sacramento Youth co-laureate, and then again in 2021 when she was named the Western Regional Ambassador.

In her works, Huynh regularly discusses her background as a Vietnamese American. She states that she tries to avoid “Writing [herself] into particular lanes” when it comes to concepts such as family and race, and that poetry is important to her as it externalizes what she wishes people knew. 

While she agrees that poetry can “change lives, appeal to emotions, and reduce complex concepts,” Huynh also notes its limitations. She believes that poetry needs to be paired with action because words alone cannot solve problems, pointing out that “the way poetry is presented right now is a soundbite,” and that many people tokenize youth voices in poetry, making it a “checkbox item.” Huynh articulates that one should never spend more time performing poetry than being “on the ground” actively working towards the causes one is using one’s platform for. 

Staying true to her beliefs, Huynh reveals that one of her dreams is to go on a poetry tour, meet children, and teach them in classrooms to discuss their relationship with poetry. 

When asked what advice she has for budding poets, Huynh has several suggestions. She begins by emphasizing not to write for anyone but oneself, and encourages poets to eliminate thoughts like, “What is someone going to think about these lines?” Additionally, Huynh stresses the importance of reading three times as much as writing. She cites some of her personal inspirations, including poets Safia Elhillo and Diana Khoi Nguyen. 

Students and staff at Mira Loma are proud of Alexandra and are excited to see the work she continues to do through her poetry. 

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