Poet Laureate

From left Milton High School Principal Brian Jones, Georgia Poet Laureate Judson Mitcham, Dagmawit ‘Bessi Adamu, Milton English Teacher Jane O’Brien, First Lady Sandra Deal and Governor Nathan Deal.

The fifth annual Poet Laureate Prize comes back to Milton High School for the second year in a row, by way of a poem by Junior Dagmawit ‘Bessi’ Adamu.

Georgia’s Poet Laureate Judson Mitcham, in collaboration with Georgia Council for the Arts, announced the winner and finalists of the fifth annual poetry competition.

Adamu recently started writing poetry and “couldn’t believe it at first” that she had won.

“I definitely didn’t think that I would win. When it finally registered that I had won, I was very humbled. It was a great experience,” she said.

A member of the National English Honor Society at her school, Adamu recalled the club encouraging members to “submit to the competition for club points.”

She was also motivated to submit her work “to see how others would view my poetry.”

Adamu is no stranger to the competition, learning about it “because last year’s winner was from Milton High School.”

Classifying herself as typically a writer of “fiction, with short stories and unfinished novels taking up most of the space,” she recalls previously steering clear of poetry.

“I didn’t feel like I could write the form properly. However, in the past year, my interest in poetry spiked, especially after reading a lot of free verse poems. I decided I should at least try to write some of my own poetry,” said Adamu.

The writing process comes naturally, according to Adamu, who notes, “I simply write when I feel like I have something to write.”

Her inspiration for winning submission, “Seamstress,” was pieced together after reading “an article about the Rohingya Genocide.”

“Following that article, I read many more reports about the atrocities, both past and current, that people have experienced at the hands of others. I wanted to write a poem that depicted both the horrors of genocide and the effect it has had on the people who experienced it,” said Adamu.

A “daughter’s cavernous midnight eyes, akin to the pure onyx beads that snake around mother’s neck, glisten with innocent fascination at the story mother seamlessly weaves,” said the poem.

It describes a mother’s efforts to tell her daughter about the atrocities happening all around them, without instilling deathly fear into the life of an innocent child.

Adamu described ‘Seamstress’ as “one of my more mature and well-written poems” and “timely and necessary because of its message.”

She and the four finalists all chose to base her works on real life happenings.

All five girls were honored at the Georgia State Capitol on April 30 honored by Governor Nathan Deal, First Lady Sandra Deal and Poet Laureate Mitcham.

The students were also granted the opportunity tour the historic Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta.

Their works have been published on Atlanta Magazine’s website.

“Writing poetry playsa crucial role in educating Georgia’s students, advancing literacy through meaningful connections to reading, writing, and language arts,” said Georgia Council for the Arts Executive Director Karen Paty.

The annual program has two goals in mind, to encourage students in grades nine through 12 to write original poems and engage in the unique art form of poetry.

“The work of these young poets is incredible. We are extremely proud to honor their talent and efforts, and we look forward to seeing them succeed in the future,” she said.

Adamu’s and the works of the finalists can be viewed at https://bit.ly/2IljNZ7.

All Georgia high school students are encouraged to participate.

Students interested in participating in next year’s program will be able to learn details about the 2019 competition on the Georgia Council for the Arts website in the fall.

More information about the Georgia Council for the Arts and the Poet Laureate Competition is available at http://gaarts.org/programs/literary-arts/poet-laureate-prize.

Deadline for submissions is at the beginning of March.


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