Junior Becomes STL Youth Poet Laureate


Media by MK Stallings

Sarah Abbas, junior, poses with her award, which recognizes her as the STL Youth Poet Laureate 2020 at UrbArts on Monday, Jan. 20. She will go on to compete in the Midwest Laureate later this year and if she wins, she will apply to be the National Laureate.

As the lights center on her, Sarah Abbas, junior, takes a deep breath with a microphone in hand and opens her eyes to an audience.

For Abbas, this scene is all too familiar. She has been performing her poetry in slams and competitions since her freshman year. Over the years, Abbas has won a multitude of accolades, ranging from school-sponsored slams to the Brave New Voices (BNV) international competition, making history as the youngest person to perform at Button Poetry. 

Last week, Abbas became the STL Youth Poet Laureate, a representative for change through poetry in the community. Out of the four STL Youth Poet Laureates, two of them have been from MHS, with Zack Lesmeister being the 2017-2018 Youth Poet Laureate. 

“As Laureate, you’re trying to make a change and help others with your words,” Abbas said

To become the Laureate, Abbas said she had to go through an application process that included interviews, performances and hosting a poetry slam. This was all in preparation to show that she was capable of holding the position.

As the STL representative, Abbas said she will be visiting different schools and events to perform her poetry as her agent sees fit. 

In a couple of months, she will be in line for the Midwest Laureate. If Abbas wins, she’ll be among the top four youth poets in the nation to apply for the National Laureate, which she said is highly competitive. In the next few months, her goal is to enter different contests and publications in hopes of beefing up her resume.

“It’s really weird because I always neglected writing, even when I excelled at it, because I thought I wanted to go into medicine,” Abbas said. “It is comforting knowing that there is something that I can do well. I’m honestly considering this as a career choice.”

Sarah is extremely talented, but she is also very modest, which draws people to her.

— Shelly Justin

Abbas developed an interest in poetry when she joined Poetry Club and Shelly Justin, club sponsor, told her to participate in the school poetry slam. She went on to win the slam that year, becoming the youngest winner in MHS history. Justin then encouraged Abbas to join her poetry team, where they compete with area schools. 

Justin said she spotted talent in Abbas from the beginning, which is why she encouraged her to get involved. She said that Abbas’s style of poetry captivates the audience because her style and subject matters are fresh and timely. 

“Sarah is extremely talented, but she is also very modest, which draws people to her,” Justin said. “At times, talent comes with some amount of arrogance, but she doesn’t have that.”

Justin said that because a lot of people tend to have a negative view of poetry as a career, it is significant that Abbas is breaking out and highlighting the positives of artistic expression.

“I think it is important for all people to see that artistic expression should be something that all of us strive for and that it is needed in life,” Justin said.

Lindsey Haas, junior, also said Abbas has had a positive influence in her life as one of her best friends over the past years. Haas saw Abbas’s potential during their poetry unit in their 9th Grade Honors Language Arts class.

“She developed a passion and love for [poetry] and found herself through it,” Haas said. “Now, she openly expresses herself which makes me so proud of her.”