Lin, Liu claim top spots in first local Youth Poet Laureate competition


Ruby Rosenquist

Angelyn Liu, the runner-up for the Burlingame-Hillsborough Youth Poet Laureate, is currently working on a poem about gardenias to represent her family’s story of immigration.

Ruby Rosenquist, Staff Reporter

The Burlingame Public Library crowned Lauren Lin, a junior at Castilleja High School in Palo Alto, the inaugural Burlingame-Hillsborough Youth Poet Laureate during a Commencement Ceremony before Library Foundation members on May 12. 

Angelyn Liu, a junior at Burlingame, was selected as the runner-up in the competition.

To be recognized as the Burlingame-Hillsborough Youth Poet Laureate, young writers must undergo a comprehensive and rigorous application process that not only considers the artistic merit and subject matter of their writing, but also their commitment to civic engagement.

Liu, for one, is a member of the Robotics team at Burlingame, where she facilitates community outreach events to foster a love for STEM in children. She also volunteers to sing at a senior home every few weeks to brighten people’s days.

“It’s easy to come up with random ideas [while doing philanthropic work] because I’m not always preoccupied,” said Liu. “When I write, I try to capture ordinary moments and reveal a deeper meaning behind them.”

For instance, Liu wrote “Shorelines” — the poem that won her second place — to pay homage to her dad, who is a fisherman.

“[The poem] takes an almost cynical approach to fishing,” said Liu. “It kind of draws upon when I used to fish with my dad every weekend and how I’m losing that childlike sense of wonder as I’ve grown older.” 

Both Lin and Liu use their poetry as a vehicle for change, addressing intersectional issues that they are passionate about, such as reproductive rights, mental health and senior living.

Lin’s motto — that when we listen and speak with empathy, we can “rectify the past towards healing” — implies that poetry has healing powers. She hopes that her poetry resonates with people who struggle with finding purpose when mourning.

“Expressing ourselves creatively is an attempt to reach out and connect with others,” said senior Audrey Limb, the editor of Burlingame’s creative publication Catcher Zine. “I believe [it] is one of the most basic, quintessentially human instincts.”

The competition for the title in Burlingame and Hillsborough is a local version of a bigger establishment known as Urban Word, which selects a National Youth Poet Laureate each year — the first being poet and activist Amanda Gorman. Now that Lin has won one competition, she may consider running for the coveted national title that Gorman received in 2017. 

“I remember reading Amanda Gorman’s winning poetry [piece] as the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate several years ago [and] I am glad to watch her rise in fame,” Limb said. “I am grateful for any program that highlights young people’s art and encourages consumers to pay a little more attention and hopefully care a little more.”

The Urban Word organization champions youth such as Gorman by providing them with platforms for their self-expression and creativity. Although Gorman struggles with a speech impediment, the Urban Word Organization provided her with the necessary resources to brave “the hill” and ultimately present a speech at president Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021. 

“I think it’s important to promote young voices because our world is so oversaturated with the voices of others,” Limb said. “It is especially important to provide this platform in a school setting because it makes creative expression more accessible to people who might feel invisible.”

For those who are uncomfortable with sharing their ideas in written or spoken form, creativity can be found in different ways.

“Everyone needs an outlet that allows them to get into a ‘flow state,’ where they no longer have to think about what they’re doing and just ‘be,’” Advanced Placement English teacher Tim Larkin said. “For many, that’s creative — for others it might be physical.”

Liu’s outlet, and her purpose in life, often comes from staring out the car window, absorbing the world and waiting for inspiration to strike.

“Ourselves, our people, our home; we are promising, yet we also brim with broken promises,” Liu writes. “One day, there will be no horizon — just the bubbles drifting languidly, a half-visible spattering of tears between you and an infinite expanse of sea.”