Miles Hewitt lives to express himself: in music, politics, journalism and poetry.
"In the 21st century, we all express ourselves with Facebook, Twitter, blogs. Poetry is just a continuation of expressing ourselves with words," Hewitt said. "Whether or not you call it a poem is up to you."
Learn about the five national student poets at: Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
On Sunday, Hewitt, 17, stood at a podium on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to receive the nation's highest honor for young poets presenting original work. The ceremony was part of the Library of Congress' National Book Festival.
He is among five high school students nationwide who have been appointed as the inaugural class of literary ambassadors for
the National Student Poets Program. It's a yearlong commitment that Hewitt takes seriously.
"A poetry ambassador promotes the reading of poetry and trying to spark an interest in poetry," he said.
& in between passionless crimes —
(so for the lack of humanity,
the careless abandon
and the forgoing of burden)
I looked into your eyes & thought
I AM ORPHEUS
& you smiled
& asked me what I was thinking about
I brushed you away
off the bed
pushed you over the nightstand as
the lamp with wavy grasping shade reached
& the globe on the shelf & the maps
on the walls slipped & sighed
& you collapsed on the ground —
'I don't know' —
but I wasn't lying.
— Miles Hewitt
Hewitt and each of the other four poetry ambassadors have been charged with organizing a community poetry event during National Poetry Month in April.
Hewitt talks enthusiastically about meeting some of his favorite poets in Washington, D.C.: Philip Levine, the outgoing U.S. poet laureate; Terrance Hayes, the recipient of the 2010 National Book Award for Poetry and slam poet Andrea Gibson.
Hewitt's talents and interests are diverse. Now a senior at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, he is a songwriter and musician who's led his own band and plays piano in a jazz combo that plays gigs. He's the president of the Young Democrats of Clark County. Recognizing that his school didn't have a student newspaper, in his junior year he founded VSAA's online newspaper, "Vita Brevis," and served as editor-in-chief.
"This school has so many talented students," said Jennifer Hockhalter, his literary arts teacher for the past four years. "But what sets Miles apart is his unabandoned writing style. He has a very Allen Ginsburgian style."
Ginsburg was a Beat poet whose work is not at all sparse, but emotional, colorful, spiritual.
"He has a unique voice," Hockhalter said. "Because he's a musician, that translates into his rhythm and his words."
As a junior, Hewitt advanced to her literary arts focus class, the school's highest-level class.
Hockhalter encouraged Hewitt to enter his poems in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards as a junior. He submitted two poems, and won a gold key at the regional level and a silver medal at the national level.
"That put me in the running for this new student poetry award," Hewitt explained.
The honor includes a $5,000 academic award to use toward college tuition. When he graduates next spring, he's contemplating a career in political communications or speechwriting.
"I'll always be writing, whether it's my occupation or not," Hewitt said.
Hewitt's parents are Scott Hewitt, a reporter at The Columbian, and Sue Peabody, a professor of history at Washington State University Vancouver.
In mid-October, Hewitt and his dad will travel to the largest poetry festival in North America, the Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark, N.J., where he'll read some poetry and hobnob with other poets.