WordPlay Cincy selects 2023-2024 Youth Poet Laureate

WordPlay Cincy selected Gabrielle Walker to serve as its 2023-2024 Youth Poet Laureate of Cincinnati

A senior at The Seven Hills School, Walker will be the second person to hold the position, succeeding Rimel Kamran of Mason, a freshman at The Ohio State University.

Gabrielle Walker, Youth Poet Laureate of Cincinnati.
Gabrielle Walker

Walker’s selection was made by a committee of experts in creative youth leadership, library sciences, literary arts, education and community arts.

WordPlay Cincy – a local nonprofit focused on storytelling through writing, performance and visual arts – received three times as many applications for the position in the past.

What made Walker’s submission stand out was its unique perspective on the ways poetry lends itself to community engagement, as well as through the eloquence of her own poetry, according to WordPlay Cincinnati. 

Much of Walker’s work examines identity along the lines of her Cameroonian American heritage, race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, class and how it affects her sense of belonging, per WordPlay Cincy.

Previously, Walker received awards in the statewide speed writing competition, Power of the Pen, and the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. This past summer, she received a national gold medal for her essay, “’How to make ends meet” focused on Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl.”

Walker learned she won the poet laureate position after opening an email during breakfast. Her initial response to the news was “shock, almost to the point of denial.”

“I thought, ‘was I really selected?!’ Because we were out of the state at the time, I waited until we got home to show my family the good news,” the teenager said. “There are so many talented poets in the city, so it was a surreal experience.”

This year’s second-place finisher was Carmen Foster, a senior at the School for Creative and Performing Arts. Third place went to Walnut Hills High School senior Nola Stowe.

The Cincinnati Youth Poet Laureate program is open to writers between the ages of 14 and 18.

The program looks for young writers and leaders committed to community service through their art. Those selected receive access to mentoring opportunities, leadership development and a range of performance engagements.

The program partners with organizations such as the city of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library, University of Cincinnati’s Elliston Poetry Room and Cincinnati’s Adult Poet Laureate Program

Walker tenure begins Saturday, Aug. 19. An inauguration ceremony will take place at WordPlay Cincy’s headquarters on Chase Avenue.

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