Young! Involving Young Poets and Youth in Poetry X Hunger
Young poets have a lot to contribute to the Poetry X Hunger cause! They bring an energy, edge and moral force to their poetry – often presented as hip hop, slam or in other high-voltage performance modes.
Worldwide and across the U.S., we hope to encourage young poets to write, present and post their poems about hunger. To get started, we’re collaborating with Dialect of Prince George’s County (http://www.dialect-usa.com/) to tap into its very successful and high energy Prince George’s County (MD) Youth Poet Laureate Program that’s directed by Mr. Patrick Washington.
For example, Patrick has asked poets who are participating in the County’s 2019 Youth Poet Laureate program to write about hunger. He’s given the poets the following cues –
Think about the various ways that food touches us all, and explore these in your poems:
1.HUNGER Growling stomachs; wanting eyes; does it matter whether the food is delicious or not when you’re hungry? What is the first function of food? Where are the areas where people are the hungriest?
2.FLAVOR There are many flavors like Sweet / Tart / Salty / Savory / Bitter / Greasy – how many others? How would you describe taste & texture? What emotions go with what flavors? What parts of the body does flavor affect?
3.HEALING Food fills – food changes moods – food comforts you – and FOOD PROMOTES GOOD HEALTH. Just as illness & injury take many forms – there are also many ways to heal, like by eating. WHAT FOODS do you think can heal? Describe the magic that happens when good food heals you.
4.NURTURE Food doesn’t happen without WORK. It comes to our tables because of the hands & hearts of others. Who do you love enough to cook for? If you were a farmer growing food, how would love motivate you?
5.NOURISH Our bodies are machines that require fuel. Food keeps the engine running & gives us the energy to run or dance or dream (what activities do YOU enjoy doing that food helps you to do?) REMEMBER – Not All Food Is Nourishing! Processed foods & snacks may handle #1 and #2 above, but not the rest!
6. WASTE Does food that’s thrown out or that spoils in the refrigerator contribute to hunger? How can we reduce food waste?
QUESTION: How does a person’s diet affect their academic life? How about their personal life? What are the possible long-term effects on a young person’s health?
Here are some hunger-focused poems written in 2019 by young poets! To see more hunger poems by these YOUNG! poets, visit Instagram at poetryxhunger_ Note the ending underscore.
Memories by Kaliyah Greene
My mother and I take a trip down memory lane, See the glorious plates of love & peace fade, Replaced with the sounds of hungry bellies growling Nothing could ever be so utmost foul. I remember the days that I'd go without food, Monday Tuesday Wednesday, never good. Friday would be payday, heavenly, food in the fridge. Saturdays maybe Sundays would be my chance, Just to go through Hell all over again. Momma would try and give me all, But I couldn't let her succumb and fall, To the parasite that is money withdrawals, Going to this bill or to that. I couldn't let her starve herself, Just for a child she's raising herself. So I shared the food just meant for me and so we ate the food for today, And tomorrow, and next day, that day. All I now know is a belly so full, What I would give to keep this up too. My pain is no joke, My past is not a memory, Because for some it is the present, And they might always be hungry.
Foodie Dreams by Kaliyah Greene
I look at me and i look at you, In the cracked mirror in the bathroom. And I see someone I never seem to knew, How do you do that? Get so skinny that I can see the bone, Lips so cracked and dry a monsoon couldn't fix it, Stomach growl so loud that the people can feel its vibrations What's that on his plate? The kid next door.... Three slices of ham, handful of peas, and a buttermilk biscuit He ain't hungry, he never starves, but me? I'm hungry No I'm starving Never mind… I'm ravenous. The nearest store is 30 min drive away, And I know we can't possibly pay, For the next day of food School doesn't provide enough nutrients And I know I should just be grateful about what I have but I can't I'm so hungry. My mind replaces algorithms with apple pie, English with English muffins, Technology with toasted collard greens and I oh I'm so damn hungry. I just... I'm hungry.
Bully by Nya Epps
Hunger is a disturbance It discomforts me and lacks sympathy It tugs at my stomach Like a child wanting attention from their mother
Then I have to tell to tell it, “wait a second” just so I can focus on my academics
The more and more effort I put into this lesson, the more I realize that this pain is not irrelevant So I drop my pencil and unlock my phone and push the Instagram icon to watch “mukbang” videos
As I sit and watch energized people stuff their faces with mozzarella-filled corn dogs It makes it easier to imagine satisfying flavor
Oh, how I desire the taste of salty cheese and the crisp fried layers covered in ketchup and mustard Oh, how I desire the comfort of a excellently seasoned piece of salmon and asparagus with a side of fluffy mashed potatoes
Even when I’m at home, my hunger haunts me and lingers like a ghost When I’m watching TV and “My 600 lbs Life” comes on The unnecessarily obese can binge on 3 course meals to cope and find comfort When I only have a bag of chips in the cupboard to tell my hunger to “shut up and move on to another” See, I can’t get that same comfort nor can I cope with the bully named HUNGER
Desserts by Zainab Ahmed
Every bite I take is poison The taste is delicious and filled with temporary pleasures But every time I eat it I know my time limit reduces I see the Rodeo King riding down the beef patty mountain and onto the smoked bacon ground The area is surrounded by the BBQ sand, the grass grows onion ring flowers I take it all in and I could be here for hours and hours.. I could eat this for hours. But I can feel the environment turning on me The sand trying to suck me in, the avalanche of the mountain making its way towards me The cracks in the bacon covered ground started shaking, earthquakes causing the holes to form Everything slows down as I power down For the first time I felt those 1400 calories drag me down And then I look around and I realize the land is empty, it’s all gone. No long term value but just short term fulfillment You see I don’t live near Whole Foods - nah - that’s like 15 miles away There ain’t no Sweetgreen or Great Sage that’s all the way up in Howard County I only have places that prey on my low income status That love to play with my health or lack of it I live in a desert where desserts are our only options And where vultures cash in on our bad financial situations while they keep the poison they feed us in circulation
Hunger Games by Nala Washington
Hunger Games. A made up story about an annual event in which two people from each of 12 starving districts are randomly selected by the wealthy to compete in a televised battle to the death. Now let’s not get it twisted… I’ve never watched these movies a day in my life. But I just can’t help but notice painting poverty and white-faced makes it poverty. So called fiction. Making a number one novel, a blockbuster movie a hit at the box office I guess being brown and hungry ain’t all that entertaining. Our stomachs have been starving since the dawn of time Since we were fed chitlins and licked cornmeal off our dirty fingers which became a delicacy. Since three dollar ramen boiled hot dogs and pinto beans became a norm. This game is only one sport we call surviving. This story is not just a story to us it is now obstacles in your path we call it welfare. Food stamps. Food deserts. Is it true the USDA labeled parts of Prince George’s county a food desert? But you call this entertainment. As Hollywood spends millions of dollars to tell this story with outlets they call it Panem, I call it Andrew Jackson Middle School where most kids there meals are when they enter that building and wait to hopefully receive more if they so make it to another day. I call it Baltimore City which has more than 20 percent of people living below the poverty line and has one of the highest poverty rates in Maryland I call it Suitland High School here most girls come just to feed their babies who now are growing up the way they did. I call it Washington D.C. and no not the gentrified part of D.C. you have built to try and cover it’s faults and run us out I mean that one part of D.C. That’s the real life Hunger Games. Many on the street dressed up in whatever they have left begging, scavenging for cash. As their stomachs growl just as hard as our ancestors did. Do you hear it?
Hunger vs. Success by Deja Epps
Grrrr! The sound of my stomach and the food not coating my lips is the only thing I can think of as I scroll, click and type through this computerized chemistry test My churning stomach can’t determine what number should be placed as the coefficient to balance this chemical equation Gurgle! Did anyone hear the hunger sound alarm that just went off inside of me? Sweat begins to trickle down my forehead Suppressing the onset of embarrassment begins to feel like a new goal instead of anticipating the end of this exam Grrrr! My aching esophagus can’t decide whether or not if I should choose A or C as one of my multiple choice answers But the only thing I dream of deciding for is whether to put country crock butter or strawberry flavored cream cheese on a raisin cinnamon toast bagel Or….if my taste buds would prefer the iconic salt & pepper duo over a few shakes of lemon pepper on some fried eggs, just to soothe the sounds of emptiness that flare up my adrenal strikes They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but hunger isn’t limited to morning, noon, or night Especially for me, when the hunger I endure each day continues the fight Pain or Focus? Hunger or Success?
Kitchen Echoes by Imani West
Society calls it soul food Laced in black excellence Perfect healing There is nothing like it Birthed from the full belly of the south Laughter and love Woven into the scars of a history that they thought had been long forgotten Turned into something beautiful Recipes from our ancestors that we remember that are braided into our very existence Nobody could cook like them I can imagine the smell of love wafting from the kitchen on a Friday afternoon as the sounds of jazz spoke pigments into the ears of all who listened It’s the magic of healing that brings us from yesterday to today Helps the skies lighten up on our darkest days Makes the pain fade away Brings us to our own kind of promised land Makes us heal And smile
Hunger Spell by Jordan Culmer
I’m hungry stomach growling as I crave for food mouth watery as flavors lurk in my thoughts and my mood changes they say ”food doesn’t happen without work “ but what happens to those who are looked past and forgotten? starved and deprived with no years supply This became my life add a pinch of truth mix in a heaping table spoon of want I’m so hungry Food stamps haven’t come in so wheat bread, processed ham or turkey, & mayonnaise sandwiches with water is what I’m devouring Oh good my “favorite “ or maybe I’m used to it - it was cheap & easy to fix fast and quick Better meals I’ve prayed for it I’m not trying to be a disturbance to the system but I’m hungry You must not understand my language so allow me to reverse the script Step into my shoes Open your ears and hear your stomach speak It’s desire for you to eat I’m hungry and my spell is on you Now tell me Aren’t you hungry too?
Skinny by Nala Washington
“Toothpick” “Bones” “Twig” “Noddles” “Starved” A lot of people talk about obesity Being overweight What people don’t understand is calling someone “too skinny” is the same as calling someone “too fat”. My mind and my stomach have been fighting for years and all my heart wants is peace. Just like I wanted another piece of cake. Or a brownie. Even a piece of chicken. And maybe it’s wrong but i felt so whole being empty. As much as I hear my stomach growling, I skip breakfast. Sometimes lunch. And almost always dinner. I’m the type who doesn’t eat when she’s upset, instead, I avoid eating altogether. Apparently I’m too damn skinny I’m told at least 5 times a day, “you need to eat”. I always say to my mother, “I’m a big girl deep down”, but what she doesn’t realize is that at night, I don’t bother to even touch the food she has made for the family. My friends disregard me because apparently, “I have nothing to be concerned about”. My grandmother had to feed me as a child because I was underweight and even then I didn’t want to eat. Some of us start early. Yes I am skinny and no, I don’t like it. Thin shaming is just as hurtful as fat shaming. But no one acknowledges it. No one sees this as a problem. I’m sorry I don’t come with a shocking before and after photo. But I do know how many lunches you have to skip before you start feeling the way that I feel. I do know, that no matter how many times my boyfriend compliments me on my weight, I have never felt full. I always wanted to be full. I’m still thinking about how much I ate last night And I felt pretty when I was empty. But today I feel beautiful when I am full.
Flavors by Kaliyah Greene & Zainab Ahmed
Both: Flavors K: Of sugary sweet lies and revelations Z: And of the fiery spice of life and death K; Something Unique, something that is defined not by the food we eat but the buds on our tongue Z: The morphine, dopamine, and dynorphin within the brain coated from the flavors of vain Both: But the identification of the flavors are tricky K: I identify as a syrupy sweet, unseasonably fresh flavor, something so plush and lush on the tongue, sending waves of morphine and euphoria down your spine, like hot chocolate with a dash of nutmeg. Causing a lie of happiness down your throat. A la-la land of something fragrant. True to the dopamine I cause when you take a bite of that soothing vanilla macaron. But beware, a banana boat of disaster floats your way. Too much of me can and will cost your mind. I will make you addicted, become unhealthy, go crazed, and wish you could stay away from the chocolate drowning you in its sugars and the gumdrops of your anxieties. Thus a start of a licorice beginning and a twizzler end. But this never really was my choice, it was always yours. Z: I identify as piquant, hot, and tempting. One taste of me and I’ll get your blood pumping. And you’ll be drowning in pepper soup and you open your eyes and see your surrounded by the thick heat like Suya being barbecued over charcoal fire. I give you a chance to live on the wild side of life. A quick journey as though you going on a speed race, running away from your problems, zooming fast like a car chase. You traveling north trying to run away from the flames lookin for ways to escape but you can’t resist when that Kilishi comes your way. Cause I am a high. A natural drug. As soon as you taste me all you’ll see is color, all you’ll see is red. All you’ll hear is your heart beating so fast it’ll sound like drums bringing you into the next life. But of course you realize this is all a game, right? The devil’s tango, didn’t mommy and daddy teach you about places you can't go? I am a high. But every rush must come crashing down. All of the sudden your world’s gone dim, looks like you’ve had too much ata din din. Leaving you with a sigh of relief that you’ve once again survived the spice, and once you’ve caught your breath you’ll come back to taste the fire. K: the vindictiveness of something so meticulous and melancholic, it's strawberry ice cream sprinkled with cyanide. Z: the seductiveness and nostalgic presence of something like a carolina reaper on the run. Both: Flavors are nothing to be played with, but something to watch out for. Go deeper if you must, but tread lightly in the dust. K: Because something so sweet Z: and something heavily spicy Both: Can be deadly.
Toxic Waste by Jordan Culmer & Imani West
His name is Steven He is 10 His ribs poke out of his skin His legs quiver as he walks His back telling stories no book has the spine to carry All because people don’t want their last bites They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure But they forgot that one man’s trash can be another man’s life, his livelihood I can hear the cries of a child saying “mama I’m hungry” It’s toxic waste he walks into a store looking for something healthy to eat on a budget just about 1$ to spend but the salad he wants is 5.00 vs the mcdonald’s hamburger that’s .99 Where in other places they throw away their $2 ones America is the capital of obesity but strutting the authority to exercise but what about the kids who are food deprived starving themselves to feel like they fit in While others throw away food for sport toxic waste her name is amber she has insecurities she doesn’t get enough to eat at home She walks down the halls of her high-school And the kids tease her Because she’s thin, fragile to touch but what they failed to realize is amber’s family has no money they judged her by the appearances she ended up starving herself to feel accepted Just to trim her waist Her family afraid that she’ll waste away Toxic waste when you fix your plate the first thing you think of when you get full is to throw away your scraps But what you don’t understand is that all you’re doing is adding to the Toxic Waste
Photos below are from the Prince George's County’s 2019 Youth Poet Laureate program directed by Patrick Washington
Stay tuned for more details on our YOUNG! Activities – and how you can start a similar program that helps young poetic talents focus on the hunger cause.
Here's a picture of some of the young poets who gathered in July 2019 to brainstorm about how to use social media and this website to further promote Poetry X Hunger. Dr. Tatiana LeGrand is at the far left