Milton High School freshman Aanika Eragam’s poem, “Coconut Promises,” landed her a spot as one of four finalists in this year’s Georgia Poet Laureate’s Prize.

The prize is awarded for an original poem written by a Georgia high school student. This annual program is designed to encourage students in grades nine through twelve to write original poems and engage in the art form of poetry.

“It was a validation for my writing that someone had read this and felt something,” Eragam said.

Eragam’s free-verse poem explored the speaker’s fragile relationship with her mother, who misses birthday, phone calls and graduations. Eragam’s succinct diction and painted metaphors explores the remains and sores of a decaying family.

Eragam assures that the mother in the poem is not based on her own mother, but rather a concept she hoped to explore.

“I feel like sad things, touchy things, bring out the most emotion,” she said. “I was just trying to see how that would feel because I know some people don’t have a great relationship with their parents.”

Eragam only began writing poetry the summer before her freshman year, saying poetry felt much more creative than most academic writing. She says she almost submitted a different poem, but chose “Coconut Promises” right before the deadline.

“I’m Indian and in our culture, when you break a coconut if the inside is blackened, it’s a bad omen,” Eragam explained. “I imagined if it’s more desecrated like that, it’s broken promises.”

Eragam says that at the moment, her favorite poet is Robert Frost and her favorite poem is “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” a poem that makes an appearance in S. E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders.”

The winner and four finalists who were selected by Chelsea Rathburn were honored by Governor Brian Kemp and the Poet Laureate at the Georgia State Capitol on June 4.

“I am honored to recognize these distinguished students who have shown tremendous talent and creativity through poetry,” Governor Kemp said. “Their poems put a spotlight on the importance of literary arts across our state.”

“Reading the submissions to the Poet Laureate Prize, I was amazed by both the quality and variety of poems being written by students across the state,” Rathburn said. “It’s clear that Georgia’s young poets have much to say about their experiences, their communities, and the issues that matter to them, and that they have teachers who are dedicated to the literary arts. I’m excited to see where their writing takes them in the future.”

“I feel like writing is such an important skill and it really transcends into whatever field you want to go into,” Eragam said. “I definitely want to keep up writing.”

Her poem “Coconut Promises” can be found at gaarts.org/programs/literary-arts/poet-laureate-prize.

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