Jacksonville’s Youth Poet Laureate Joins City Slam Team
Written By: Desirae Lee
Trystan Loustau is a self proclaimed “big idea” thinker. Which is quite evident because this past January she was named Jacksonville’s first ever youth poet laureate. Loustau attends Stanton College Preparatory High school and is a sixteen-year-old rising junior. Her experience within the spoken word society at her high school is what opened the door for her to compete and perform in several other poetry related events; including Poetry Out Loud, Stanton’s annual Winterfest Extravaganza, and most recently becoming a member of Jacksonville Youth Poetry Slam Team (JYPS).
The Jax Youth Poetry Slam Team organization was founded by Tonya M. Smart. Every year in April, Smart helps to organize and promote a city wide spoken word slam competition. The top five winners earn a spot on the JYPS team. Training begins within days for the winners as they prepare for an International slam competition called Brave New Voices (BNV).
An organization based out of California called Youth Speaks organizes the Brave New Voices festival every summer. The five-day festival features workshops, emcee battles, celebrity performances, youth teams competing from all over the world, and more.
Loustau says she is excited for the festival especially since she was not familiar with it before being on the JYPS team. Being a part of such a large scale and intense competition was a culture shock for Loustau but she remains optimistic. She has found fun, friends, and most importantly she has seen growth within herself.
When transitioning to a poetry slam competition setting, coming from a background of writing and recitation, how did you prepare for the April slam?
I had never really competed in a slam competition but I only got nervous right before I got on stage. I brought two of the same poems from the poet laureate competition and one new piece.
It was all so different than anything that I had experienced before. I hadn’t experienced Jacksonville’s poetry scene before and there were so many kids, kids my age, with amazing poems. I didn’t even know other people were into [poetry] that much. I didn’t even know this whole world of poetry existed. I’m excited to keep growing with my writing and to really connect with the other kids who are interested in the same thing.
What were some of your expectations when you first joined the JYPS team? How were they confirmed or disproven?
It was hard at first to memorize all the poems. I never really had that sort of environment where you recite in front of other people and being immediately critiqued. It was hard getting those critiques, which a lot of them were negative, them taking hem and doing something positive with them. After I got into the groove of things it turned out to be really fun. I don’t really view it as a burden. I see it as an opportunity to keep growing. I really view the other kids as my team mates now, not just strangers, but team mates that I have a responsibility to. I want to do my part and help us all do well at BNV.
Every slam team has a different energy and strength. How would you describe the team and what would you like the team to bring to BNV?
It’s funny, our team is really diverse. We have from seventh grade to college [students] and everyone has their own quirky personalities. Everyone on the team makes me laugh with their individual traits. To see us all mesh together so well when we are from different backgrounds is pretty awesome.
Team pieces are my favorite pieces. I think doing your poems with other people really strengthens your recitation and really improves your performance. It would be awesome to really master all of our poems and to do well while being confident.
I’m really excited about the whole experience. I honestly just hope we all do well. Two of our teammates have competed before so they kind of know what to expect. I’m sure they are hoping to go farther than last year.
Do you feel like you have grown as an artist since your time on the JYPS team? Which aspects of your artistry?
Probably my performance. My writing has gotten stronger because of the fact that I have been writing more, but yes mainly my performance…I’ve strengthened my ability to adapt, adjust and really take criticism to change myself.
Do you have any advice for your peers or young, aspiring poets in the Jacksonville community?
Just stick with it. Find other people who are interested in poetry. Share your work, there are plenty of opportunities to do so in our community. Before, I didn’t know about any of the opportunities in Jacksonville or how intense the poetry scene was until I came to workshops for BNV. It really opened my eyes to this whole culture in Jacksonville. Whoever you are, you can do the same thing. Just be brave enough to go look for it. Take the initiative. Take a leap.