Philadelphia’s 2019 Youth Poet Laureate: Mia Concepcion

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  [email protected] 

 

Read a sample of some of Mia’s recent work.

Hurricane Maria

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

Troublesome attempts 

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

We wonder

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?