April was National Poetry Month and what better way to celebrate than to appoint Crozet’s first-ever teen poet laureate? Last winter in her creative writing class at Western Albemarle High School (WAHS), Kelly Burnette showed her students a PBS news story about a mother and son poet laureate duo in Philadelphia. “Why can’t Crozet do that?” asked senior Cal Dagner, and the other students agreed. So, Burnette contacted her frequent collaborator Jess Moore, Young Adult Librarian at the Crozet Library. Jess loved the idea, and they worked together to make it happen. On Tuesday, April 18, poet Sadie Adams was announced as Crozet’s first-ever teen poet laureate with a festive celebration at Crozet Library.
“We wanted someone who could serve as an ambassador for poetry in the community. This person would need to be mature, civic-minded, able to communicate with and inspire people of all ages, and preferably reside in the area served by the Crozet JMRL branch,” explained Burnette. They devised an online application, promoted the opportunity at WAHS and the library’s Teen Advisory Board, and recruited five prestigious judges for a poetry contest.
Six teens applied—an act that in itself required courage and confidence—each submitting three poems, a biography, community service they had done (some volunteer at the Crozet library), teacher recommendations (other than Burnette’s), and a video clip of themselves reading a poem. Applicants included sophomore Sadie Adams, senior Cal Dagner, junior Cal Hughes, junior Lilly Davis, senior Zoe Farris, and junior Rachael Pond. The judges reviewed the applications and poems—on topics ranging from friendship to suicide to new love to the UVA shooting—and scored them in six categories, resulting in a very close competition. Finally they made the tough choice to declare Adams the winner.
At the celebration, Adams read her poem “newspaper girl” (included here) and was presented with a $50 Amazon gift card and a scroll containing her winning poem, which was handed out with others on Poem in Your Pocket Day, April 27.
All six applicants were given a bag full of JMRL swag and an attractive booklet containing all the submitted poems—one copy of which will be laminated, cataloged, and shelved in the Local Voices section of the Crozet library, so anyone can check it out. This also means that each student’s name will appear in the online catalog as an author. Parents and friends of the poets were treated to snacks, drinks, and a beautiful sheet cake that said “Congratulations Poets.”
The teen poet laureate will be an ambassador for poetry throughout the Jefferson Madison Regional Library (JMRL) service area, which includes Albemarle, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson Counties. Her duties will include hosting at least four events over the course of the next year, including Poem in Your Pocket Day, community poetry readings, an open mic night in the summer, and related events at various branches in the fall.
Adams is in her second year taking creative writing—students may elect to take it all four years of high school—and serves on the staff of the WAHS literary magazine, Myriad. Describing herself as “the quietest extrovert you ever met,” she designed homemade picture books as a child and writes a combination of prose and poetry, which she uses “as a free-spoken, genuine creative outlet to express herself,” according to her biography. “I am inspired mainly by literature and music—most of my work isn’t personal,” she added at the celebration. She runs competitively with Formula Fitness in Charlottesville. “I’m not sure where I plan to go to college or what I want to study yet, but my plan is to run track and cross country for a Division 1 program.”
Burnette and Moore provide a model of teacher/librarian collaboration. Moore has visited Burnette’s creative writing classes at least once each year since 2019 to talk about writing and tell students about teen programming at the branch. She offers encouragement on their writing projects during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. During Covid, they co-hosted a zoom for teens with a local author. “Kelly is wonderful to work with,” said Jess. “She is so encouraging and supportive of her students. She always has a positive attitude and brings me original ideas.” Burnette expressed similar feelings at the celebration. Burnette and Moore hope to expand the teen poet laureate program to other branches in the future.
by Sadie Adams
when it rains, don’t expect the new york times,
because the newspaper girl can’t go outside without her frame
and her legs bending
and ink running down the sidewalk.
her umbrella is made of tissue, her boots of old catalogs,
and her heart of packaging paper from birthday presents.
with her wrinkled hands, smudged raw from years of rain,
she spends the day working to hold up the walls of her paper house
with stilts she folded.
i miss the girl she was,
metal in a thunderstorm.