In South Florida, spoken word poetry is hugely popular among teenagers. Most high schools have teams which compete in the annual Louder Than a Bomb tournament. So being hailed as the best individual poet among hundreds of peers is quite an honor.
Anna Bayuk owns that title for this year, being named South Florida Youth Poet Laureate by the Jason Taylor Foundation and its Blu Apple Poetry Network.
“For me, poetry is a really good way to process the world,” Anna told NBC 6 during an interview in her backyard in Coral Springs.
She just graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where she was a member of its state champion poetry team.
“Let me tell you the story of Venus of the Swamp,” Anna says as she reads from her collection of poems, called Venus of the Swamp.
Telling stories. That’s what poets do, and that’s what Anna does through her work.
Her mentors from Blu Apple celebrated her book release with a Zoom meeting this week. It’s the best they could do during this pandemic.
“Spoken word poetry has allowed me to explore topics I would never have been able to explore before,” Anna said.
She’s headed to Emory University in the fall to study creative writing.
“Really, poetry has opened this whole new world to me that I never would’ve been able to explore otherwise, I made new friends I wouldn’t have made before, I’ve made new connections i wouldn’t have made before and I’ve gotten to express myself in a very cool new way,” Anna said.
“I think that it’s sometimes very difficult to look inward and look at things that maybe you don’t want to be seeing and poetry for me is a good way to do that.”
Anna writes about a variety of topics, but when you read her book and absorb her poems, you’ll notice a theme that runs through most of them.
“I think my poetry does definitely explore topics of personal healing and social justice alike, but I think the most important thing I want people to take away from it is that you can, even in the ugliest of times and places, there is still beauty to be found,” Anna said.
Searching for the sublime moments of the human experience. That’s what this young poet does.
“When things look terrible, look closer and find the places where you can make things better,” Anna said.