Inaugural poet inspires young Tampa Bay spoken word artists

One of the stars of Wednesday's inauguration was also one of the youngest; 22-year-old Amanda Gorman made history as the youngest known poet to speak at the swearing-in ceremony.

Her words are inspiring a new generation of poets in the Bay Area, proving how far their passion for writing can take them.

Young, poised, heartfelt, and strong, Gorman spoke in front of U.S. Presidents, past and present.

"Yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect," Gorman spoke.

The nation's first youth Poet Laureate called for unity with her poem "The Hill We Climb."

"For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it," Gorman said.

During her performance, local teen poets saw what could be.

"I was in shock. Honestly, I was amazed," said Kennedy Engasser, Land O' Lakes High School student.

Engasser writes and performs spoken word with Heard 'Em Say Youth Arts Collective in Tampa.

"To see a spoken word poet up there talking about things that really matter about culture and acceptance and coming together, "Engasser said, "it's so amazing how art can play a role in that."

22-year-old Amanda Gorman made history as the youngest known poet to speak at the swearing-in ceremony.

Demarquion Alexis, who won this week's MLK Poetry Slam in Tampa saw a young woman on stage with a relatable story and words.

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"She's able to be there just a couple feet away from the president reciting poetry that she made from her heart," Alexis said, a Lennard High School student. "I think a lot of people get lost in what poetry is supposed to be. It's just about expressing your feelings."

Amanda Gorman calls for unity with her poem "The Hill We Climb" at the presidential inauguration

For teen poets and those helping their talents bloom, Gorman proved that words can go from thoughts to paper to the world's stage, no matter what age.

"It inspired me, too, because I feel like I can go on and do greater things with my art," Engasser said.

All you have to do is start writing.

"We want to get literacy out there, we want to get young people writing and expressing themselves and being verbal," said Charlotte Grant, who organized the MLK Poetry Slam and other community youth events. "To be able to just write and express themselves and feelings - as a social worker, I realize that is a great outlet."

There are many spoken word groups, events, open mic nights and performances happening daily around the Bay Area for all ages.

You can learn more about future events at Heard 'Em Say Youth Arts Collective's website, and the Tampa Bay Poetry Alliance's Facebook page,