BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Baton Rouge Magnet High School student has won a statewide poetry competition hosted by Southern University's John B. Cade Library.
When Calvin Morris stood to read the poem that propelled him into the state's spotlight, he looked out over an audience, which included students from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and St. Joseph's Academy.
Morris read his poem, On Having Faith in a Soon to Be Gentrified Neighborhood, making eye contact with audience members on both sides of the room.
Morris read with confidence, "These children dream far beyond the railroad tracks, beyond this neighborhood to be robbed from them and repackaged as some other kid's suburbia. But the stars have returned and gr anted them this moment of un-relinquished purity and innocence…"
Morris was awarded an iPad for placing first in the contest.
"I've always been partly a writer ever since I was little. I used to write little songs and stuff," Morris said. "I mainly started focusing on it this year, my junior year. I realized how passionate I was about it and how much I realized I could do with it, how much I could inspire people with it. So I began taking it more seriously this year. I joined Word Crew, which is an after school writing collective of youth poets across East Baton Rouge Parish, sponsored by Forward Arts. I just became heavily involved, going to a lot of teen open mics. I became a host for "Fresh Sheet" which is a teen open mic. So any chance I got to share my work or to be with other people doing the same thing I was doing, really helped."
Morris says exploring the spoken word music of poetry slams and poetry open mic sessions has helped him emerge as someone who wants to put pen to paper.
"Forward Arts definitely helped me establish who I wanted to be as far as a poet, not only as a spoken word artist, but as a literary poet as well. It's inspired me to maybe consider putting out a collection of work and getting it published and things of that nature, and also helped me gather the resources needed to accomplish that," said Morris.
Morris says the community of poetry-loving young people nurtured by the charity, Forward Arts, has been a confidence booster for him and others.
"From a young age, I was bullied, but starting in the 9th grade and especially this year, I've been able to find a group of people who love me and support me and cherish me no matter what. I made a lot of friends who have the same interests as me. They don't make me feel as bad about being weird and not being like everybody else, and that definitely boosts your confidence and helps you take pride in being different and being unique and that boosts your confidence," said Morris.
Morris thinks all teens should seek a creative way to express themselves.