Warren County Public Library Contest Winners 2022

"We Are Gold" by Jacob Tuang

Henry F. Moss Middle School, 8th grade

Graze your hands across the lands in search of scorned beauty
Because the beauty that’s adorned by descended children,
Whose ancestors’ faces they revitalized into fruition
They are carefully crafted with features cast into the shadows;
Traits that were not recognized as disgraceful,
Until it was distorted to be so by society’s eye
Alongside that societal disadvantage is the painful awareness of the exact thing
That warps your image
It’s the reason why you can’t recognize the person in the mirror;
Why you imagine the shards of glass and how it fits together
But when it’s reflected in front of you, it’s discordant and alien.
You claim to love yourself including the askew bits and pieces, but that’s all a lie
Not once have you truly registered how enchanting you are,
For you only play the fool’s game of mimicry
Instead of embracing the modern depiction of ancient allure,
We court attitudes of shame and hatred
We look towards negativity as a means of reliability,
And not once do we consider the implication our thoughts may have on our egos
We exist to chase better contentment;
Not once have we been consoled and ensured we are enough
From birth we’re taught we must be something more
That we must be cold and coarse
That we must conform to what we’ve been told
But we’re meant to be uncontrolled,
Bold and molded by our own hands
We aren’t meant to be undersold;
For behold, we are gold

Interview with Jacob Tuang

How does this poem reflect your connection to a sense of place?

Poetry can definitely be used as a means of reflection. This poem reflects on my connection to a sense of place because I feel like my features and traits, especially as a person of color, have been either fetishized or looked down on. For example, social media and school have really made me more self-conscious about some of my features like my eyes or nose because of some things people say, even if it's not intentionally directed.

What are you hoping members of your community feel when they read your poem?

I really hope that by reading this, members of my community feel like they're worth more than they perceive themselves as and really embrace themselves.

Briefly discuss your writing process! Do finished poems come to you all at once? Do you write down words or phrases bit by bit? How often do you edit or revise a poem?

I'm not sure if I can even call it a writing process. For me personally, my writing comes at random times when I get suddenly inspired by something like TikTok, a book I'm reading, or a TV show. For me, it's really important that I have lots of sources of inspiration and for this poem specifically, I got inspired by the song "Your Best American Girl" by Mitski because of how her lyrics can resonate with a lot of POCs. When I do get that urge or get inspired to write, I find a quiet place (usually my room) open a new Doc or go to my notes app and just start typing away, I try not to edit or revise a poem too much because I want to keep it as "raw" as possible, not to say that editing or revising isn't genuine; just do whatever works best for you.

What's one piece of advice you would like to share with folks who are interested in pursuing poetry?

I'm not really that informed on poetry either because I really only started this after my class and I was taught a few lessons by my reading teacher on poetry and I'm only in 8th grade, but the best advice I can give is to stay true to yourself and to keep digesting media. I say this because personally, I never really change anything if I let a friend read it and they dislike it unless it's like an honest criticism because the only thing that matters to me is that it makes sense to me. Poetry is subjective, so you should always try to stay true to what you're saying even if people don't get it because history has many great examples like Edgar Allan Poe. I also say to keep digesting media because media (books, TV, social media, art, etc.) can be such a great inspiration and a muse that can help give you ideas on what to write.

Warren County Public Library's Teen Poetry Contest is an opportunity for the young people in our community to share their passion for writing poetry and to give them a chance at being published for the first time. Students were invited to submit their original poetry during the month of April to celebrate National Poetry Month. These students from Henry F. Moss Middle School and Greenwood High School wowed our judges with their entries.

Both the WCPL and Kentucky Folklife digital magazine are excited to share the winning poems with you. We would like to thank each and every student for submitting poems to our contest this year. We think you'll agree that there exists such a talented community of young people in Bowling Green. We certainly hope to continue highlighting the rich and creative practices of students who play an integral role in the continuation of folklife throughout the Commonwealth!