National Student Poet Julia Falkner On Poetry and Connection
17-year-old Julia Falkner from Louisville, Colorado is one of 2014's National Student Poets. In a recent interview, Julia shared her thoughts on poetry and its ability to help human beings share and connect with one another.
Julia believes that the teenage years are an incredibly productive time for poetry.
"Last year, I spent a lot of time in my psychology class discussing how the teenage years are marked by a search for identity," she explained. "For me, poetry has been completely tied into that quest for self."
She said that when people write poetry, their personalities always manage to reveal themselves through that writing.
"Regardless of the subject of your poem, who you are will bleed through into how you write," she said. "As you start to engage with poetry, you start to consider what you value, what you love, how you see the world– and maybe most importantly, how you uniquely feel. Teenagers feel so much and so deeply. There's so much to draw from and to create."
But as a preteen, poetry didn't immediately appeal to her.
"I wrote poems for class when I was younger, but was always more concerned with the rhyme scheme than the images and feelings themselves," she said. "As I started growing up, that open-ended, immediate, emotional space of poetry started to call to me."
Poetry was an opportunity to express her thoughts in a way that she hadn't ever before.
"To me, poetry means a chance to fully explore something that moves me," she said. "The door that poetry opens for me to experience a feeling is what I love about it."
Poetry also frees the writer to tackle subjects all over the board.
"Inspiration is pretty diverse– I've written poetry about alt. rock bands and crime movies, I've written poetry about mythology, I write about my friends and their lives so constantly that I admire their patience with me," she said. "A lot of my poetry dives into gender, adolescence, or vulnerability. Realistically, every room in the world is full of these things, so I'm inspired constantly."
Over the years, she's also become drawn to symbols.
"Occasionally I'll be struck by an image and want to investigate what this means– a spilled birdfeeder, what does this mean; salt stuck on a lifeboat, what does this mean," she explained.
After she started writing poetry, Julia decided that she would participate in her school district's poetry slam.
"Getting the courage to read at a slam was one of the hardest things I've ever done," she said. "I felt not only unsure of my poetry, but unsure of myself."
But once Julia got up on that stage and started reading, she knew she had made the right decision.
"Standing in front of an audience and hearing them react to my poem line by line was honestly life-changing," she said. "After I finished reading, a group of girls my age whom I'd never met approached me and told me that my words had spoken to them."
Jovan Mays, one of Julia's favorite spoken word poets, also happened to attend the event.
"He gave me a hug… which I'm still a little star struck about," she admitted.
Julia was proud of the opportunity not only to confront her fears, but to bare her soul.
"That's the thing– when it comes to spoken word or even written poetry, completely exposing yourself makes you a badass," she said. "Bravery is considered sacred."
Being a poet necessitates bravery, in a way,
"Poetry often creates this environment where it's not only natural to stand up in front of an audience and totally open yourself, but it's encouraged," she said. "That's so important because in our everyday lives we spend so much time internalizing things: secrets, thoughts, feelings. Things we think are too shameful or intense or just plain incommunicable to express."
In poetry, you share those internalized, often secret thoughts.
"Showing someone a poem is like the minute before you tell someone you love a secret," she said. "After you finish speaking, they wrap their arms around you and embrace you, and you feel that those parts of you are not only shareable, but beautiful."
In this way, poetry has unlimited potential to bring people together.
"Poetry allows us to reach across the barrier of our own personal experiences and feel with each other," Julia said.
Julia thanks the National Student Poets Program and its partners including The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers for allowing her the remarkable experiences she's had so far as a National Student Poet.
"Also, I'd like to mention that a handful of my favorite poets of all time are teenage girls writing and creating today," she said. "Young people have so much power to shape the future of the art world, and keeping that creativity alive is so essential."
You can read poetry by Julia Falkner here! Also be sure to check out our interview with her fellow 2014 National Student Poets, Ashley Gong and Madeleine LeCesne, and share your own poetry with us at Sweety High!