Youth Poets Leading the Way


Santa Rosa, CA | November 1st, 2021 – California Poets in the Schools (CalPoets) announces the county’s new Youth Poet Laureate - Ella Wen, a sophomore at Maria Carrillo High School. Sonoma follows the lead of the nation, the state and sister counties (Alameda, Los Angeles and Ventura) in acknowledging a student who has achieved excellence in poetry, allowing them to be a leader for the county in raising the profile of poetry and developing its audience.


Ella Wen was selected from a qualified pool of applicants by a panel of judges on October 17th, 2021. The judging panel included distinguished poets and teachers from throughout the county including Phyllis Meshulam, the current (adult) Poet Laureate of Sonoma County. Ella Wen was the 2021 winner of Sonoma County’s Poetry Out Loud recitation contest and is a distinguished pianist.


Finalists in the contest included Dezeree Pruter - a 9th grade student at Maria Carrillo High School and Sabine Wolpert, also in 9th grade at West Sonoma County High School.


Phyllis Meshulam, current Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, and longtime Poet-Teacher with CalPoets, states:


"A poem ‘is a composition of written melodies that only radiates music when the one who wields it orchestrates it with their heart.’ This statement from Ella Wen is one reason I’m so thrilled that she will be our 2nd youth poet laureate for Sonoma County. Also, she plans on connecting with schools, libraries, and classrooms to get other youth involved in the writing and presentation of poetry, as a way for them to get their voices heard. And she sees poetry as a way to confront racism, sexism, ageism, and misunderstandings between generations.”


Ella’s one-year term as Sonoma County’s Youth Poet Laureate began November 1st, 2021. Within that time, Ella is committed to conduct at least five public appearances/readings/workshops – ideally one within each supervisorial district, however virtual events are likely and encouraged. Ella will receive a $500 prize and an opportunity to publish a collection of her own poems or spearhead a broader, youth publication opportunity. Schools and community organizations are encouraged to contact Ella (through California Poets in the Schools) if you are interested in hosting her at a public event.


In Ella’s own words:


“For me, poetry has always been a way of expression. It’s a composition of written melodies that only radiates music when the one who wields it orchestrates it with their heart. In poetry, your work and message aren’t subject to the confinements of paragraph or grammar; they’re instead able to flourish in this completely abstract array of letters and words. As a kid, I used to write poems at night as a way to escape from reality, illustrating daily life as simple stanzas. Nowadays, I write poetry to debunk my thoughts and turn social issues into an emotionally rich work of art. Communication of ideas has always been a struggle for me, and yet poetry gives me that chance to exhibit my thoughts and political views in an incredibly free way. In all honesty, poetry lets me speak a volume that I never thought was reachable .”


The Sonoma County program is organized by California Poets in the Schools and supported by the Bill Graham Supporting Foundation.


Congratulations, Ella!


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