Introducing Houston’s New Youth Poet Laureate
Fareena Arefeen, 17, is Houston’s new Youth Poet Laureate. Fareena, a student at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA), was chosen amongst dozens of talented Houston teens to share her insightful voice and creative spirit with the City of Houston.
Houston’s Youth Poet Laureate is an initiative led by WITS, the City of Houston, and the Houston Public Library. The position was designed to help young teens foster creative growth in our diverse and unique city. At the annual WITS gala, Fareena, a first-generation American, shared a poem and a captivating story about her background and love of writing.
“Poetry wasn’t just the esoteric words in my school textbooks; it was alive and real and right there in the apartment building where I lived, on the sidewalks where I walked, and at the gas station where my mom worked,” Fareena shared. “Poetry didn’t just belong to people who didn’t look or sound like me; it belonged to me.”
Fareena wants to use her poetry to provide “comfort and stability” to underserved and marginalized communities. But she also believes that poetry has another use, to “challenge and push people in power toward change and new perspectives,” and inspire people to fund the arts for underrepresented communities.
You can read Fareena’s poem, Hurricane Season, below:
My mother tells me that I was born outside of the eye of a hurricane,
where the storm is strong and moves quickly in radials.
I think I am a series of low pressure systems and winds that can carry bayous.
I’ve heard that a child playing on the coast in Africa
can cause the start of a hurricane in the Atlantic and maybe
a working immigrant in Toronto can be the origin of a poet in Houston.
My ninth birthday was suspended in the space between cyclone and serene.
I watched my city build itself up again after Hurricane Ike and
I guess we are both having growing pains.
I’ve learned that my purpose is flooding.
I want to form inundations of words and earn
the title of a Category Four. Drought relief and filler of bayou banks.
Hurricanes bring heat energy from the tropics
the way I would like to bring light to the city that taught me how to hold rainwater in the form of
On my thirteenth birthday, I watched the bayou
spill into this dizzy headed space city
like a push of blood to the lungs.
Inhaling atmospheric pressure of a tropical storm
in the eye of hurricane season felt like bayou backwash
of building Rothko layers.
Maybe if I could say that brown is my favorite color,
I would finally see the whirlpools that rest in my skin and in the Buffalo Bayou.
And someday I could love the greens hidden in browns hidden in labyrinths of color.
I only came into my skin
after I grew into this city and they both happened like storm clouds; rolling in and all at once.
Now, I find impressions of myself in the silt
as there are maps of this city pressed into my hands like footsteps on wet ground.
On my seventeenth birthday, the clouds broke light rays
the way I want to leave fractures in my city
that can be filled with the work of new artists and immigrants to take my place.
My favorite smell is rain
falling through concrete and cumin because they combine homes.
I can be a drop of water falling in multiple places
I am stuck to the city I’ve learned to call my own
like humidity on skin that can finally
hold its own storm.