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Marquette Junior Named Saint Louis Youth Poet Laureate

Marquette junior Sarah Abbas hopes to raise awareness of social issues through poetry. Now that Abbas has been named the 2020 Saint Louis Youth Poet Laureate, she has a platform to do just that.

“It was a good feeling to have this title," said Abbas.

Abbas submitted an application a few weeks ago, along with a portfolio of original poems and her resume. A group of judges selected four finalists and honored one teen with the title. 

“My goal – through poetry – is to help people feel accepted and loved,” said Abbas. “It has taught me so much about the world and how I can live my life doing what I want to do and not feel like I’m forced to do because of societal standards.”

Throughout the year, the 16-year-old Abbas will be conducting workshops at different schools, going on a library tour and working on publishing her first collection of poems through a book deal.

Shelly Justin, who serves as language arts teacher and poetry club sponsor at Marquette, encouraged Abbas to develop her skills.

“Lots of people look up to Sarah or are inspired by her,” said Justin. “People recognize something unique and special in her. Sarah is a very modest person. She feels like her message could resonate with others – and I think that’s important to her.”

As a member of the school’s poetry club, Abbas draws a lot of inspiration from prominent poets such as Fatimah Asghar, Safia Elhillo and Paul Tran. From slam to prose, Abbas started writing poetry last year and has had two performances posted on Button Poetry. Additionally, she was a part of a team that won first place at the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival in Las Vegas.

“Writing is very abstract,” said Abbas. “There is no specific way that I think a poet or writer should group themselves. I think staying broad in what you do is important.” 

In the long term, Abbas hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and a Master of Fine Arts in poetry.

The Saint Louis Youth Poet Laureate is a joint program of Urban Word NYC and UrbArts. The program identifies young writers and leaders who are committed to civic and community engagement, poetry and performance, diversity and inclusion and education across Greater St. Louis.​