Jacksonville Names First Youth Poet Laureate
Written By: Desirae Lee
There are youth poet Laureate programs all over the nation highlighting the talent and creativity of young adults. Now, for the first time, this honor and tradition has begun in Jacksonville, FL.
Sixteen-year-old Trystan Loustau, a rising junior at Stanton College Preparatory School, won the title after submitting several written works and a video. Beginning in fall 2015 teenage residents of Jacksonville were encouraged to enter this search for a youth representation of the city’s poetry community. Loustau was announced the winner at a ceremony held in January at the downtown main library. The prize was a book endorsement for her to write about whatever she wanted. The panel of judges consisted of experienced poets and writers in the community.
Loustau was encouraged by one of her teachers, Larry Knight; a poet, actor, and journalist; to join her school’s spoken word society that he founded over a decade ago. From there, she discovered her passion for spoken word and will be the President of the club this 2016-2017 school year.
From performing in school talent shows, to local arts markets, Loustan has stumbled upon a beautiful gift. It was only a little over a year ago that she tried writing and performing poetry for the first time. Given her limited experience, Loustau has proven to be on an exponential path for growth. Her drive, and willingness to compete has taken her to state-wide contests such as Poetry Out Loud, a recitation poetry slam, and to join the Jacksonville Youth Poetry Slam Team.
I had the privilege to talk with Loustau about her first encounters with “The Expressionists”, her goals for the future, and her upcoming book.
How did you find out about “The Expressionists”, the poetic society at your school and why did you enter the competition to become youth laureate?
“I got involved last year. I had [Larry Knight] as an English teacher and a Journalism teacher and he was one of my favorite teachers. So when I was looking online for clubs to join and I saw that he was an advisor I approached him about it. I was already sort of interested in poetry so I thought it would be cool to join. That was my first serious step in the direction of poetry. I liked writing but I wasn’t into poetry all that much. It has lead me to al these other opportunities and competitions to get where I am today.”
How did you feel when you won youth poet Laureate?
“It was awesome. I’ve never really gotten that kind of recognition before and it really encouraged me to keep writing. [The judges] said that my writing impacted them and I realized I could keep impacting people through my writing, through expressing my feelings, and by observing things around me. It made me get a lot more serious. I had never done outside competition for poetry before. It was kind of a side thing that I did. It was never this in tense and in depth. I never won any prestigious title.”
Do you enjoy the competitive aspect of poetry? Does the competition push you to be more involved?
“I’m a pretty competitive person. It opened my eyes. I found that poetry could be something that wasn’t just fun and games. You can actually compete both with recitation and writing wise. But meeting other people who have such a serious interest in spoken word poetry is what really inspired me to do more with it.”
As a part of the title of Jacksonville youth poet laureate, you also got an endorsement to write your own book of poetry. Tell me about your book and your vision for it.
We are supposed to submit a rough draft in august. The book will be about 30-40 poems and will be published in October. It’s been mostly on my speed. The first thing my mentor, [Ebony Payne-English] had me write was a love letter to myself, just to break the ice and also to see the direction we can take the book in.
I want to use my book to advocate for mental health awareness. Also, breaking mental health stigmas and things of that nature. The title might have something to do with “silence”. Silence has been a kind of sub theme. Similar to the silence surrounding mental health. We need to break those stigmas and break the silence and talk about this topic openly. In the future I probably want to go into the mental health field. Maybe research, maybe counseling, something like that. I think this book is a really great opportunity to use my writing to make a difference. I know that sound cliché, but I really think I can do something to make that difference.
Everybody has something they are great at. Since becoming youth laureate, are you convinced that poetry is your niche and is this what you want to continue to focus on?
“I like planning things out. I’m very forward focused. I’m a “big idea” person. So I’ve already planned out what things I want focus in on. So I can put them on my college application. I know colleges want to see that you are really impactful in a few areas rather than just spreading yourself thin. So yes, I was a part of expressionists, but I signed up for other things. I didn’t really put poetry as one of my main things to focus on. But this year, it’s been all that I’ve focused on. I started with just doing little things, but they keep increasing in magnitude. I keep getting more and more immersed in it. It’s a major part of my life now. I think it’s definitely something that I want to continue doing. And it’s definitely something that I enjoy doing. It is more than just a little hobby on the side. [Poetry] is a big part of me now.”