Interview: Austin Teen Poet Shares His Award-Winning Words
Poetry. To some, it may seem like a method of expression reserved for Valentine’s Day. But at least one Austin high schooler isn’t rolling his eyes about it.
Louis Lafair is a 2013 National Student Poet. The St. Stephen’s Episcopal School senior was honored for his work along with just four other teens from across the country. He'll now serve as a literary ambassador for the southwest region for the next year.
The award is presented by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Lafair met First Lady Michelle Obama at the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Lafair talked with KUT's Laura Rice about the honor:
How did you get involved in writing and poetry?
"I've been writing forever. Really since first and second grade. Poetry, though, actually came more recently. Two summers ago, I was in a summer creative writing program and my teacher was this remarkable poet. He really helped me gain an appreciation for poetry. And that was when I really shifted from writing a lot of poetry and, ever since, I've really appreciated poetry for its freedom of expression and of form. You can really do anything with poetry pretty easily. And really connect with people and open up a lot more easily through poetry."
What would you say to someone who thinks poetry is intimidating?
"Really, you can just go out there and write anything on a piece of paper and, actually, that's the beauty of poetry is there's no limitations at all. You don't really have to rhyme, you don't have to use any particular form, you can just sit there and use any words you want to express your thoughts and ideas."
Some of Lafair's poetry:
Re: Think Language
I.Text Message to my Girlfriend
II.Conversation with my Grandma
Don’t talk about the death
of language. I—you—we
will die, but
language does not die.
No one can crush
that first palm riding the air
in a five fingered
because even curled into a fist
that palm feels
with the thread
of human tongue.
Latin, the gasping language, is not
dead, but breathing
vitality. Salve, it says, not
Vale, as the valedictorian speaks
on. Hardly antiqua as antiquity
lingers. Rather ingrained,
the roots of a tree, as its
branches palm sky,
reaching towards a
Constant change cometh, constant
change comes. Language stays
her, an archaic expression of here,
passing, at times, through awkward
periods, like the stretched amalgamations
lapsing from youth to adulthood.
So you see, Grandma?
That text message I sent to my girlfriend?
That was a
rustled leaf, an
extended limb, a
Not the death of language,
which cannot die.
Don’t you feel it?
The feigned disinterest,
living, on its own,
in that hard backed,
four pronged letter K.
Don’t you understand? Standing
history, a story
where words fold
that swift K
surfaces, the result of a
gradual, momentous shift in tide,
riding from text message
to text mess-
age, from soul
to soul, from wave
though seemingly meaningless,
that alphabetized, un-
formalized grain is part
of the story
of the shifting sands