Nebraska’s first youth poet says she channels emotions


LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A University of Nebraska-Lincoln student is passing on her passion for poetry as Nebraska’s first-ever Poet Laureate.

Jingming “Mimi” Yu, 18, discovered that she loved writing poetry in elementary school. Since then, his passion has become more than a hobby.

The Lincoln East graduate was chosen to be Nebraska’s first Poet Laureate last spring because of her creative success, civic and community engagement, social justice initiatives and leadership.

As a young laureate poet, Yu commissions poems, exhibits her work, and performs at public events.

Yu told the Lincoln Journal Star that she uses her personal life to drive her poetry and has found an emotional outlet through writing.

“I think creative writing in general is a thing to do when you’re feeling emotional, which is really interesting,” she said. “It helps you look back on your emotions and see something beautiful that came out of it.”

Yu mainly writes freestyle poems that focus on stories of parents, grandparents, and other relationships she has.

His work can be seen at Parrish Studios in Lincoln during their First Friday events.

As a freshman sociology student on the pre-law track, it was harder for Yu to find the time to write, but the Poet Laureate for Young People program helped keep her passion alive.

“Because I’m still at an age where I’m finding out what I love, I think it’s helped me realize what I want and what my passions are,” she said. “It’s definitely an experience I’m grateful for and I learned a lot.”

Nebraska’s Young Poet Laureate program – run by the Nebraska Writers Collective – is part of Urban Word NYC’s national Young Poet Laureate initiative that promotes and honors creative students.

The program was launched in Nebraska in 2020 after Urban Word NYC contacted the Nebraska Writers Collective to see if they were interested in having a Young Poet Laureate.

“It was encouraging and extremely affirming to receive this invitation from Urban Word NYC to join their network and reassured me that young poets in Nebraska are most definitely leaving their marks,” said Gina Tranisi, Program Director. of the Nebraska Writers Collective.

Students between the ages of 13 and 19 can apply to become the next young poet laureate between the beginning of February and the end of March each year. Applicants will be reviewed by seven judges from across the state based on a poetry portfolio, resume, and essay.

The young poet laureate receives a total of $3,000 – $2,000 of which goes to a civic engagement project he creates – and will perform six public readings throughout his one-year tenure.

The program not only aims to shine a light on Nebraska’s creative students, but also to find talented young artists who are active in their communities.

“We’re saying this program isn’t just about finding good poets, it’s about finding good poets who also do good in their communities,” Tranisi said. “This is about empowering, nurturing, and sustaining a young leader in the state of Nebraska who can envision a better state for themselves and others.”

Yu will hand over the role in April, when the next Young Poet Laureate is announced.


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