The Poet Laureate Project
About the project...
Since the announcement of this project, a few faculty, staff, students, and parents have asked about what a poet laureate actually does. To answer that, the poet laureate has traditionally been appointed to write poems celebrating and immortalizing a variety of important events within the entity by whom s/he was appointed. Throughout the ages, poet laureates have been appointed by countries and learning institutions for the sole purpose of this poetic celebration.
Over the centuries this role, like that of many, has evolved into something so much more. Modern poet laureates are still appointed to celebrate and immortalize; however, they are also now expected to act as a liaison between the world of poetry and the entity by which they have been appointed. On a much more grandiose scale, US poet laureates like Rita Dove, Billy Collins, Natasha Trethewey, Juan Felipe Herrera, Tracy Smith, Joy Harjo, and Ada Limón (current US poet laureate) have established national programs and/or institutions that work to bring poetry to American culture in a way that makes poetry more accessible and meaningful while continuing the original tradition writing poems about monumental events.
JWMHS’ poet laureate will also act as a liaison between the world of poetry and our school community, continually working to showcase both the accessibility and beauty of one of the oldest literary art forms. Each poet laureate will work at creating some sort of poetic outreach within this community, write articles about current poets/poetry, and write poems celebrating and immortalizing important aspects of our JWMHS community.
2022-2023 Poet Laureate
Niamh Kirkwood '23
Past Poet Laureates
Sarah Evans '21
Senior Night of Excellence Poem
I’d like to dedicate this poem not only to the class of 2021, but to all of those who believe in their own endless potential for growth and change.
At the crossing of every bridge in time:
Moments before a place familiar is left and a new is sought—
Alike the moment we face today—
We glimpse the shadowy outline of ourselves on the
Through half lit curtains of unknown time this subtle shape stands:
Our future soul behind the silk screen of what is to be.
Before our first steps onto this new bridge, this new phase,
The footfall of months and years,
We ponder the persona of that soon-to-be statue across the way.
Each playing sculptor, we carve—casting the perfect self,
Half manifesting, half guessing, we sculpt
Who we plan to be when the fog clears
And we reach the end of this bridge.
So final, so exact, we think our clay bodies to be,
But as we cross through the fog our statues hold not long.
For it’s not long until the
Warm hands of chance and circumstance reach through the haze
Leaving impressions, chisels, scrapes: indentations unaccounted for.
Not long until the terra-cotta shapes of friends
Earthen mentors, coaches, enemies, loves,
Collide with our own.
They take pieces of ourselves we had planned on keeping,
And leave ones that suit us better.
It’s not long until we reach the glowing end of an era,
The bank on which the current bridge makes way
For a new landmark.
Stepping into that statue, that hazy version of ourselves
That we thought to be known from the start,
Evident are the fingerprints, touches from the unexpected and unknown.
This holds true for every bridge in life.
Be it new locations, new occupations, new companions,
Traversing the seasons of our years.
We cast only a mere guess at who we will be
At the end of each phase.
Each crossing that stage together at the end of this bridge
And embarking on anew,
We will recognize how those hands of chance palmed us,
Molded and sculpted for the better by our travels.
Taking the new indentations of this phase onward,
Our many impressions, chisels, scrapes,
We will open to new and more beautiful ones,
Knowing that our clay is never dry
Until we cross our final bridge, and we ourselves return to clay.
Allison Lennox '22
Senior Breakfast Poem: Abroad the Lazy Horizon
Abroad the lazy horizon, ever present, ever soft,
A glittering delicate kiss of sun dances on the wave’s crested peaks.
Oh, what the water wouldn’t give for this eternity.
Alas, the revolving sun knows no rest, no pause, and she sinks below the salty sea.
Another day dawns, the sun soaring high above a rapid rushing river:
Flaunting, flowing froth teases forever onward, flourishing in joyful teal folds-
Beckoning and enticing the perpetual movement of time to wait.
With this sweet babbling brook below, the wistful sun watches the clouds with delight.
These playful puffs of precipitation capture the reluctant sundrop light,
Delicately hung, embracing each other from afar in the great blue sky.
Alas, the light must pull away, knowing nothing of how the clouds and water beg for her to stay
And she sinks below the meandering river with a tearful goodbye.
The sun knows the lovely days as well as the terrifying ones.
Torrential downpours pounding ever harder in unrelenting perpetual hail
Plunging to its fated ground and flooding all that had been built,
All that had risen in the sun’s safety. And she will soon rise again, but in guilt-
In sadness, no longer tickled and kissed by the sandcastles we created,
Alone in the sky, as mockingly blue as the flood that tore down our lives.
She sets in earnest, lovingly moving the hours by as to keep us from pausing, resting in the grief.
In the morning, she sees the misty falls drenched in her golden dawn.
Crashing clouds of white blanket the meeting of waterfall and lake, mountains cherishing her highness.
She allows her light to wrap each droplet, indigo and orange, spring green, red
The sun cries with the earth in polyrhythmic harmony as we rebuild again,
Our cycle as well practiced as hers, each time in repetition gaining confidence and trust
Building, progressing, crashing and falling and learning, growing.
Our capabilities still not fully realized, the ebb and flow of returning to our roots will be familiar again.
Savage waters that have no patience, and the sun that cares yet is impossibly far
And us, forging our own path somewhere in-between.
We can be the water, wishing that life give us more time,
But there will also be the unfair floods that without reason or rhyme force us down
And we have to hope the dawn saves us before we drown.
Sometimes, we have to be the sun, pressing onward through those days.
This cycle, the revolving between ends and beginnings, the water and the sun,
That is not where the importance lies,
But in us as people, as neither water nor sun, not clay nor earth, but human.
We will rebuild and restart and in each new cycle continue to progress and create,
Having learned with hopeful eyes soon again we’ll have to say hellos and goodbyes
Moving forward with each step,
Though sometimes we do not understand why in each new beginning
We are reminded of the sun, the water.
Patience, and trial.
Loss, and birth.
Abroad the lazy horizon, ever present, ever soft,
Waits a sunrise for us to savor in our memory.