California Poets in the Schools leads one of the nation’s largest literary Artists-in-the-Schools programs.
Since its founding in 1964, CalPoets has inspired over one million students in sixty thousand classrooms to create six million poems, including many low-income, rural or second language learners.
The group also publishes student poetry in an annual statewide anthology; and in Sonoma County, CalPoets recognizes one student each year as the Sonoma County Youth Poet Laureate, allowing them to be a leader for the county in raising the profile of poetry and developing its audience.
This year, CalPoets selected Ella Wen, a sophomore at Maria Carrillo High School, as Sonoma County’s new Youth Poet Laureate.
Wen was selected from a qualified pool of applicants by a panel of judges on October 17, 2021, and began her one-year term on November 1. The judging panel included distinguished poets and teachers from throughout the county including Phyllis Meshulam, the current (adult) Poet Laureate of Sonoma County.
“A poem ‘is a composition of written melodies that only radiates music when the one who wields it orchestrates it with their heart.’ This statement from Ella Wen is one reason I’m so thrilled that she will be our 2nd youth poet laureate for Sonoma County,” Meshulam says in a statement. “Also, she plans on connecting with schools, libraries, and classrooms to get other youth involved in the writing and presentation of poetry, as a way for them to get their voices heard. And she sees poetry as a way to confront racism, sexism, ageism, and misunderstandings between generations.”
Wen was the 2021 winner of Sonoma County’s Poetry Out Loud recitation contest and is a distinguished pianist. As the new Sonoma County Youth Poet Laureate, Wen commits to conduct at least five public appearances, readings and workshops–either within each county supervisorial district or virtually online.
“For me, poetry has always been a way of expression,” Wen says in a statement. “In poetry, your work and message aren’t subject to the confinements of paragraph or grammar; they’re instead able to flourish in this completely abstract array of letters and words. As a kid, I used to write poems at night as a way to escape from reality, illustrating daily life as simple stanzas. Nowadays, I write poetry to debunk my thoughts and turn social issues into an emotionally rich work of art.”
“Communication of ideas has always been a struggle for me, and yet poetry gives me that chance to exhibit my thoughts and political views in an incredibly free way,” Wen says. “In all honesty, poetry lets me speak a volume that I never thought was reachable.”