AHS Students Featured in Dear Poet 2023

Every National Poetry Month, the Academy of American Poets  presents “Dear Poet”. Dear Poet is a multimedia education project that invites young people, in grades five through 12, to write letters in response to poems. These letters are then read and responded to by award-winning poets. Students’ letters alongside poets’ responses are featured in a booklet


Each student who wrote to one of the six poets received a general response from the poet, as well as a certificate from the Academy. The Academy of American Poets then selected five letters for each of the six participating poets to publish and receive a personal response, also in the booklet.


Senior Ella Waterfield, junior Piya Marschalek, senior Alan Whitmoyer, and senior Sara Low from Arrowhead High School were all featured in the booklet. Letters and responses from the poets were posted on Poets.org on April 26th. Through the Dear Poets videos and letters, young readers are able to engage with poetry in an  intimate and individualized way. 


Waterfield wrote to Chancellor Marilyn Chin in response to her poem “Advice (For E)”. Marshalek wrote to Mahogany L. Browne in response to “Country of Water”. Low wrote in response to “Looking for the Gulf Motel” by Richard Blanco.


Whitmoyer said, “I reflected on Danez Smith’s, a poet from Minnesota, Dream Where Every Black Person is Standing by the Ocean, and I wrote about my personal connections to the poem and reflected on my thoughts while reading it.”


Smith wrote back about his connections to Whitmoyer’s letter, and how he found the interpretations of his poem interesting in both their contrasts and their similarities. 


According to Poets.org, during national poetry month (April) in 2017, the Academy of American Poets received letters from over 2,000 young people, fifth through 12th grade. There were more than 70 public and private schools in major cities and rural areas across 28 states that sent letters. To participate, young people watch videos of the award-winning poets who serve the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors, reading one of their poems aloud. After watching the videos and reading the poems, students write letters to the featured poet of their choice. The featured poets then write back to select letters and the correspondence is published on Poets.org.


Whitmoyer participated in Dear Poet as part of his creative writing class. Teacher Elizabeth Jorgensen says, “This was the first year I shared Dear Poet with my students and I was so thrilled to see four Arrowhead students included in the booklet and receive personalized responses.”


Poets.org states that the Academy of American Poets was founded in 1934 in New York City. The foundation is the nation’s leading champion of American poets and poetry, with members in all 50 states. The mission of the Academy of American Poets is to support American poets at all stages of their careers and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry.


Marschalek wrote to Browne, “But reading your poem you have inspired me to forgive myself, to embrace my color for it’s a beautiful and powerful thing. I need to let the guilt flow off me for I am the only one that will live my life and I plan to live it to the fullest.”


According to PPC Library and Poets.org, National Poetry Month was created by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996. The month of April is a special occasion that celebrates poets’ integral role in culture. It also celebrates that poetry matters and the wealth of emotion, humor and human experience found in poetry. 


Waterfield wrote, “Everyone has dreams for themselves and not everyone lives up to the dreams that they made for themselves, but this phrase spoke to me in that aspect. If we want the ‘girl’ to succeed, we have to be the change that we want to see in our lives. It starts with us.”


According to Poets.org, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world. Tens of millions of readers, students, K-12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary event curators, publishers, families, and poets mark poetry’s importance in our lives.


According to the Academy of American Poets, the foundation was founded by 23-year-old Marie Bullock who was concerned about the lack of financial support for American poets. She got advice from Edwin Arlington Robinson and Joseph Auslander, friends and poets, and then Bullock decided to take action. She raised funds to promote the cause of poetry and assist individual poets. Bullock was the president for 50 years before passing away in 1986.


“I was emailed on March 30th about my letter being selected for the publication, and I received a link to the publication itself today (April 27th). I did not expect to be featured in the publication, so it was surely a welcome surprise. It was a wonderful experience to reflect on poetry with its author, as that is an opportunity that I had not had before—so on that note, I’d like to thank Ms. Jorgensen for introducing the contest in her class and providing that opportunity,” Whitmoyer said.