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Alexandra Huỳnh Named New U.S. Youth Poet Laureate

Alexandra Huỳnh of Sacramento, California has been named the new Youth Poet Laureate of the United States. She was installed in a virtual ceremony on May 20.

With plans to enter Stanford University in the fall, and to study engineering, Huỳnh brings a unique, cross-disciplinary perspective to the national post.

From an NBC news report:

The 18 year old will hold the title — made famous by Amanda Gorman, who became the first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017 and performed at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January — for one year. An alumna of Sacramento Area Youth Speaks, or SAYS, she is the country’s fifth National Youth Poet Laureate, which is presented by Urban Word, a New York-based youth literary arts and youth development organization.

“I know this win is not mine alone — it’s my entire community’s,” says Huỳnh, a second-generation Vietnamese American, “and I’m standing on the shoulders of my ancestors and all the sacrifices and wisdom that they’ve gained to bring me here.”

For the next year, Huỳnh will travel the U.S., giving readings and speaking to the issues she’s passionate about, namely Climate Justice and Asian American visibility. There’s also school. Words are such a large part of her life, she’s not worried about finding time to read and write, and instead hopes to challenge herself to think in ways she hasn’t before and work out ideas “across disciplines.”

“Vietnamese itself is a very poetic language,” she said. “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.”

The position of U.S. Youth Poet Laureate rocketed to new heights of visibility when President Joe Biden was inaugurated in January, of 2021. Then Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman read her poem “The Hill We Climbed” and captivated listeners around the globe. Since then, Gorman has appeared on the cover of Vogue; on Anderson Cooper 360; and is the recipient of the Poets & Writers Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, among many other achievements.

“Her trajectory has changed what I thought was possible for a poet,” Huỳnh says. “She has encouraged me to dream big.”