South Philadelphian Mia Concepcion recently became Philadelphia’s Youth Poet Laureate, a position with a city-wide platform, mentoring, performance opportunities, and stipend.
Poetry started as a hobby for Mia. This high school senior has a lot to say and uses all sorts of methods to express herself. As a freshman, she joined Science Leadership Academy’s poetry club, and quickly became hooked. For Mia, this is not a solitary writing experience to while away the hours on end. She and her friends participate in performance poetry on a regular basis at The Philadelphia Free Library, just a few blocks from her school. The library sponsors the Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate positions, which amplifies writers who demonstrate a commitment to the power of poetry to engage and inspire people throughout Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. Both poets engage with Philadelphia citizens through readings, events, and a special project of their choosing.
Mia believes that poetry can have multiple purposes. She reports that you can tell a lot about a person based on their poetry, work, poets they like, and the way in which they express themselves. Mia enjoys work by Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde, and Philadelphia’s current Poet Laureate Raquel Salas Rivera. She reads a wide variety of literature, but particularly enjoys fiction. Recent favorites include Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward and all sorts of work by Barbara Kingsolver. School reading assignments mirror her collaborative nature and intellectual curiosity. Mia reports that even if she’s already completed books assigned in class, she finds new perspectives from group discussions that enrich her appreciation of literature.
Mia honed her skills as a performance artist via YouTube videos which helped fuel her passion for poetry and lead her to group poetry performance. Slams, with all the nerve-wracking and tension-filled drama, became a favorite outlet for Mia. She has a lot to say and uses these performances at the Library to express her ideas, political opinions and advocacy for social change. The satisfaction of creating a poem combined with the joy of sharing it in a public, cooperative/competitive forum is thrilling for her.
Everyone always asks talented high schoolers what they plan to do next. Mia sighs, and patiently explains that college and her work in Philadelphia are part of her future, but she refuses to be pigeon-holed into a specific job or set of goals. She is passionate about pursuing a serious career in the Arts, and her talents are not limited to literature. Mia is interested in painting, drawing, sketching, guitar, and other forms of writing. She has a unique voice, and lots of ways to use it. The Philadelphia Free Library can facilitate personal appearances and readings. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read a sample of some of Mia’s recent work.
by Mia Concepcion
When the first drops fall
It takes a while for people to notice
The light pitter-patter of precipitation
No one knows about the Storm
Until it comes down in plunks of plump drops
Sheets and swells slip in, sloppy flops of water
Mildew and dirt wipe away,
Fresh and clean as a brand new day
This is the media directing their cameras away from the Filth
And forgetting the fragments of swill
Still stirring in the flood zones
News crews collect the same few pictures
Then broadcasting companies make sure they are safe
On the next flight away from all the fright
Turn the nation’s attention to the next news,
A constant flow of wet lies wiping the slate clean every time
The media rains down on the doomed,
Tells them they’re destined for destruction
Then drop a dribble of rain over already muddy waters
Why doesn’t the news display the truth?
The sinking souls buried and drowning in this disaster
Someone better start showing the world their sorrows
Broadcast on every television visions of homes in ruin,
Beat down, broken, and battered by the bullet beads of rain
They’re swimming in suffering
Yet networks struggle to get the message across
They can’t stop masking the damage with the next segment
A flood of fake feelings of sympathy
To tuck away the terror
Puerto Ricans are powerless,
Problems dismissed by pretend patriotism:
Fake aid, yet another pellet of rain–
Networks post up their crews in dry suites in San Juan
Let them take slow sips from piña coladas
While citizens take dips from their rooftops
Are the rising suicide rates also lying on the cutting room floor?
Swept aside by rushing tides,
Where’s the tally now for how many have died?
I’m ready for the full report
On the streams running through streets
Footage of the water that still won’t recede
Are you receiving this run-down?
Puerto Ricans won’t be run out of town and drowned
News anchors only allot one slot, a slideshow of hollow homes
Then suppress the rest under a cascading crest,
We wonder why we can’t hear from loved ones
Why our cell phones pressed eagerly to our ears
Respond with emptiness.
With each ring, we tally another relative that could be gone
With each unanswered space and crackle through the phone
If we ever will hear their voices again
We have America’s hands to thank
For shoving Puerto Ricans heads underwater,
With each swift pass of the newsreel
They don’t hear the cries coming from beneath the bubbles
Can no longer make out the figures through the Filth
Submerge a whole people in their own misery
The media has already forgotten of the Storm
The only thing they’ll broadcast is the weather forecast
Networks don’t care about the sunken souls,
The island submitted to destruction
Tell me, how many natural disasters and lost lives
Will it take for them to care?
Tell me, how many homes and cities must be erased
Before action is taken?
Tell me, just how many?