He’s the toast of the capital!
Hunter College High School senior Miles Hardingwood, the 2023 National Student Poet for the northeast, recited his work for First Lady Jill Biden at a White House ceremony November 13.
With his classmates and teachers watching by video hookup, Hardingwood read his poem “Recipe,” about baking bread with his grandfather.
“It seems to me your flesh is in that recipe,” he intoned. “Your essence preserved in flour, in Crisco, in tepid water, in poppy seeds — and I, with jaws like railroad tracks and teeth like headstones, like margarine, swallow your bones to remember.”
Hardingwood, who lives in Brooklyn, is among five regional youth poets chosen annually from among the winners of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, a competition of the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Each regional poet read a poem aloud before the First Lady.
Hardingwood has written poetry for years, having co-founded PASSWord, HCHS’s poetry slam/spoken word club and serving as a 2022 NYC Youth Poet Laureate Ambassador. He is no stranger to public performance, having read aloud at Federal Hall in downtown Manhattan, the Schomburg Center in Harlem, the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Vice President Kamala Harris’s Black History Month celebration in Washington, D.C.
“It's been amazing to watch you grow as a poet and a performer,” Hardingwood’s friend and PASSword co-founder, Keith Parsons, said during the video hookup. “Your dedication to using your art to advocate for social change is an inspiration to us all. You've come a long way since we read each other's poetry on your front porch. We're all so proud of you!”
Mrs. Biden, who introduced the youth poets, said that poetry has a special place among the arts.
“Poetry feeds our spirits when we're hungry for something more,” she said. “It traces the contours of our sorrow and our joy. It shows us our shared humanity. In a world that asks us to sprint from moment to moment to meeting to meeting. Poetry reminds us to slow down, take a breath and appreciate the celestial beauty that surrounds us.”
The First Lady added: “As the world continues to beckon at your doorstep, demanding more and more of your time and attention and your energy, I hope you remember this room. I hope you wrap yourself in this moment and draw strength from its power. And I hope you know that President Biden and the vice president and the second gentleman and I see you and we hear you — and we're counting on you to keep going and keep sharing your gift with the world.”
The National Student Poets receive a $5,000 stipend and serve for a year as ambassadors promoting poetry and literacy through service projects, workshops, and public readings. The program is considered the country’s highest honor for youth poets doing original work.
Hunter College High School is one of two publicly funded schools for gifted and talented students operated under the auspices of Hunter College. It has produced a panoply of American luminaries, including composer, lyricist, and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda; actor and writer Ruby Dee; Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan; and poet and activist Audre Lorde.