WASHINGTON — Jill Biden on Tuesday hosted a reading of this year’s national student poet group, including one from New Mexico, allowing everyone to read their winning work in a White House room set up to mimic a cafe.
Jesse Begay of the New Mexico School of the Arts in Santa Fe was among those who listened to the first lady say that she herself turned to poetry to sometimes find joy in the words of others, including when she lay awake, consumed by worry, or when she felt lost.
“In the words of others I found the outlines of my own joy,” she said. “I found a place to ease my fears. I found a compass that would lead me through the darkest woods. And on the page, tangled in hasty lines, in ink blots, I found myself.
“So it’s really special to be able to welcome the National Student Poets 2022,” she said as the five high school poets sat behind her on high stools.
In the State Dining Room, books and trinkets were stacked on the mantelpiece below a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. A sandwich board advertised a poetry reading at 4:30 p.m. Votive candles flickered on round tables where some 60 diners were seated.
Ada Limón, the 24th Poet Laureate of the United States, called on each student to read her winning entry. Biden congratulated the students after the reading and hugged them all.
“We don’t just celebrate poetry,” Limón said. “We celebrate the future of poetry.”
Besides Begay, the 2022 National Student Poets and their schools are:
• Vidhatrie Keetha, Horace Mann School, Bronx, New York.
• Emily Igwicke, University School of Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
• Winslow Hastie Jr., Charleston County School of the Arts, North Charleston, South Carolina.
• Diane Sun, Interlake Bellevue High School, Washington.
Biden also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the National Student Poets Program this year, which was established in 2012. The program selects and provides scholarships each year to five student poets — one from each of the five geographic regions of the United States — to serve literary ambassadors in their communities. .