Lupita Diaz was a bit blown away standing alongside some of Kentucky’s literary titans on Tuesday at the State Capitol in Frankfort.
“It was very powerful,” Diaz, who is a freshman at Beechwood High School in Fort Mitchell, Ky., told WFPL News. “I could hear their voices, and I could hear the way they expressed their poems.”
Diaz was at the Capitol for Kentucky Writers Dayon the same program as the State Poet Laureate Crystal Wilkinsonand former poet laureates including Richard Taylor, Sena Jeter Naslund, Frank X Walker, Georges Ella Lyon and Jeff Worley.
Created by the Kentucky General Assembly in 1990, the day is intended to honor literary figures in the state. It is celebrated annually on or around April 24, the Kentucky-born writer’s birthday. Robert PennWarrenwho won multiple Pulitzer Prizes and was named the first American poet laureate in 1986.
The Kentucky Arts Council hosted the celebration, and Tuesday’s event marked the first in-person since 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Diaz, 15, received an invitation to attend and perform at the ceremony after being named state champion in a national poetry recitation contest. This weekend, she will represent Kentucky in the poetry out loud national semi-finals. If she makes it to the finals, she will compete for tens of thousands of dollars in cash prizes. The annual competition is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, and national and regional arts agencies. It aims to develop interest in poetry.
Diaz said she only recently became interested in poetry, but connected with it.
“You can just show your emotions to people and resonate with other people, like building a relationship with them, just like the poem I recited today,” she said of this. art form.
the poem she recited at the Kentucky Writers’ Day event is called “Spanishby Tato Laviera.
Lupita Diaz, Kentucky’s 2022 Poetry Out Loud State Champion, reciting Tato Laviera’s “Spanglish,” during the Kentucky Writers’ Day celebration in Frankfort. pic.twitter.com/auXeiaoV62
— Stephanie Wolf (@StephRWolf) April 26, 2022
She felt she was able to show her voice through “Spanglish,” adding that it was “incredible and heartwarming” to read those words out loud.
Governor Andy Beshear presented Diaz with a medal during the Kentucky Writers’ Day celebration for winning the statewide Poetry Out Loud contest.
“I’m convinced she’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever met,” he said.
He also said that Kentucky is “incredibly blessed to be home to so many writers of extraordinary talent, skill, and diversity.”
“Kentucky’s tradition of writing and literature is just as deep and rich as our traditions of bourbon, basketball, or even horse racing,” Beshear said. “But what I love is that we not only create incredible works, but Kentucky writers have something to say, and their voices resonate across the Commonwealth and beyond.”
The voice of Kentucky Poet Laureate Crystal Wilkinson has been recognized in Kentucky and beyond.
Earlier this year, she won an NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Literary Work – Poetry” for his latest book “Perfect Black”.
“I’m so proud to be a part of Kentucky’s literary heritage,” Wilkinson said at Tuesday’s event.
She then took several minutes to remember two famous writers who died from the state: novelist and essayist Ed McClanahan and writer and activist bell hooks.
“I’m proud to have called them both my friends,” she said. “We will certainly miss them and keep them alive in their work.”
As the state’s laureate poet, she said her priorities include building community and “amplifying[ing] the voices of all Kentucky writers.
“I think it’s important for our young people to know that you can be from Kentucky, any part of Kentucky, and be a successful writer,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said she wants to pilot a statewide high school poet laureate nomination program this year.
She also announced a new podcast that she developed in partnership with Louisville Public Media. WFPL is part of LPM. “Words for the peoplewill highlight the works and lives of established and emerging Kentucky writers.
The first episode was released on Tuesday and features former Poet Laureate Frank X Walker and Zakia Holland, which is much earlier in her career.
Lupita Diaz has yet to attempt to write her own poetry. But she feels inspired to maybe give it a try, and she wants to encourage others to learn more about poetry recitation.
“Like helping people get that voice, get that confidence.”
Diaz will compete in the Poetry Out Loud National Semifinals on Sunday. His band will kick off at 3 p.m. ET, and the event will air on the NEA website.