The Academy of American Poets Announces First-Ever Winner of the National Poetry Month Poster Contest for Students

Posted on

Jan 04 2019

New York, NY (January 9, 2019)—The Academy of American Poets is pleased to announce that tenth grader Julia Wang from Lynbrook High School in San Jose, California, has been named the winner of the first-ever National Poetry Month Poster Contest for Students. Wang's artwork was selected by Academy Chancellor Emeritus Naomi Shihab Nye and award-winning graphic designer Debbie Millman from among twelve outstanding finalists and more than 450 student submissions. The Academy of American Poets will distribute 100,000 free copies of the 2019 National Poetry Month poster featuring Wang's artwork to libraries, schools, bookstores, and community centers nationwide. The poster is also available for download

As the winner of the contest, Wang will receive $500, a $500 gift certificate to Blick Art Materials, art supplies from Sakura Color of America, and signed copies of books by this year’s judges. She will also be featured in the April 2019 issue of American Poets magazine. 

This is the the first time since launching National Poetry Month in 1996 that the Academy of American Poets has had student artwork on the official poster. In previous years, the poster has featured work by award-winning illustrators and designers Maira Kalman, Roz Chast, and Chip Kidd, among others. 

For the contest, the Academy of American Poets invited students in grades nine through twelve to submit artwork that incorporated lines by current U. S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith and that reflected a celebration of the art of poetry. Wang chose the following lines from Smith's poem "An Old Story":

"...And then our singing
Brought on a different manner of weather.
....We took new stock of one another.
We wept to be reminded of such color.”

In her artist's statement, Wang writes: "Rain could symbolize mourning, suffering, and all that is tragic. But it could also represent spring and new beginnings. Since music, or more specifically, 'our singing,' seemed like a key part of this text, I wrote the first half of the excerpt onto five lines like those in sheet music.... To contrast the dark background, I drew the teardrops with bright colors. Acting as a source of light, the color from the droplets radiate and seep into the areas behind it. Combined with the light and color of the droplets, the music lines seem almost transparent, like a shimmer of hope."

About Wang's artwork, Naomi Shihab Nye says: "What a thrill it is to behold the winning artwork, unanimously selected by both judges, for this year's National Poetry Month poster. This image, so stunning in its luminosity and profound compassion for deeply moving lines of poetry, embodies 'what poetry does' in the best times—enlivening the heart and senses as well as provoking the mind." 

"It was both a surprise and not a surprise," says Debbie Millman, "that co-judge Naomi Shihab Nye and I independently chose the same design for the inaugural student competition for the National Poetry Month poster. It is a surprise because any unanimous response is a rarity. It is not a surprise because the young artist's work is exquisite; the integration of message and meaning is wise beyond her years, and the overall sentiment embedded in the illustration is stunning." 

Request a free copy of the 2019 National Poetry Month poster featuring Wang's winning artwork in time for the April 2019 celebration

About Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of numerous books of poems, including Transfer (BOA Editions, 2011); You and Yours (BOA Editions, 2005), which received the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award; 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (Greenwillow Books, 2002), a collection of new and selected poems about the Middle East; Fuel (BOA Editions, 1998); Red Suitcase (BOA Editions, 1994); and Hugging the Jukebox (Far Corner Books, 1982). She is also the author of several books of poetry and fiction for children, including Habibi (Simon Pulse, 1997), for which she received the Jane Addams Children's Books award in 1998. Nye's honors include awards from the International Poetry Forum and the Texas Institute of Letters, the Carity Randall Prize, and four Pushcard Prizes. She has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow. In 1988, she received the Academy of American Poets' Lavan Award, judged by W. S. Merwin. She served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2010 to 2015. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. 

About Debbie Millman

Named "one of the most creative people in business" by Fast Company, and "one of the most influential designers working today" by Graphic Design USA, Debbie Millman is also an author, educator, curator and host of the podcast Design Matters. Millman is the author of six books, including two collections of interviews. She is currently working on an illustrated book for HarperCollins titled Why Design Matters, which will be published in 2020. Her illustrations have appeared in publications such as The New York TimesNew York Magazine, Print Magazine, Design Observer, and Fast Company. In 2009 Millman co-founded with Steven Heller the world's first graduate program in branding at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Now in its eighth year, the program has achieved international acclaim. 

About National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 and takes place each April. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, community centers, and poets honoring poetry's vital place in our culture. The special month of programs is made possible by more than 70 poetry partners and sponsors, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts.   

About the Academy of American Poets

The Academy of American Poets is the nation's leading champion of poets, poetry, and the work of poetry organizations. It produces Poets.org, the world's largest publicly funded website for poets and poetry; National Poetry Month; the popular Poem-a-Day series; American Poets magazine; Teach This Poem and other award-winning resources for K-12 educators; and an annual series of poetry readings and special events. The Academy of American Poets also coordinates a national poetry coalition working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.