Young Voices

May 2021 | By Sara Ries Dziekonski


I want to say how incredibly grateful I am to encounter such amazing talent from young writers. I am constantly inspired by my students and will share poems by three writers here.

In May, there was a virtual open mic from high school students in various regions of Florida whose work was selected for the Poetry Out Loud anthology, which I had the privilege of editing for Keep St. Pete Lit.

Here’s a stunning poem by Anjali Byju, who won second place in both content and in performance.


The Life of a Man in Twenty Lines

By Anjali Byju


It’s not what it looks like, he said,
digging his mud-crusted fingers into
the deep pockets of his blue jeans. The
type of wry smile creeping on his face that made girls
fall in love and fathers curl their fists. He was the
kind of beautiful that got away with anything. Even as the
milky sky and bleached field faded into the atmosphere, those eyes,
oh those eyes, made that sinner one of God’s favorites. Caught,
red-handed, dough-eyed, one would’ve thought him to be a child.

Though, he wasn’t. Years of life and the way it had at breaking him down, left the
man in poor spirits. Disappointment was his kryptonite. The fear that everybody
else held a magnifying glass to the part in his lips, waiting, yearning,
for the lost soul to make a mistake. The fear that his father would return
once again, except this time with a sharper paddle and even fiercer words.

The fear that his sister would be left desolate and ravaged by the neighborhood
boys she once considered her friends. The fear that this town, this minuscule piece
of barren land, would be the last place he ever lived to see. Small-minded people
with small-minded dreams. Silent if not for the occasional roar of a passing bus at
midnight. Awake are the miscreants and black hats waiting for the sun to fall.

He was one of them.


And here is a lovely heartwarming poem by an elementary student named Enrrique from High Point Elementary. This poem was from last Wednesday’s class:

Poem from Enrrique, an elementary school student from High Point Elementary


I also wanted to share a poem from a booklet I put together featuring my writing students from the Virginia Leonard Community Center. Here is a powerful and important poem by Jayla, a middle school student.


Just Because

By Jayla

Just because I’m Jamaican
Doesn’t mean my skin is really dark
Doesn’t mean I have a heavy accent,
And doesn’t mean I wear patterned clothes.

Just because I’m Jamaican
Doesn’t mean I listen to only
“our type” of music,
doesn’t mean I carry around a machete,
doesn’t mean I’m poor.

Just because I’m Jamaican
Doesn’t mean I freshly grow everything I eat,
Doesn’t mean I live by a beach,
Doesn’t mean I don’t have electricity.

Just because I’m Jamaican.
Why should you care?
Why do you mock me?
Why do you act heartless?

Just because I’m Jamaican.


My friend and poet Miesha Brundridge curated an event called Youth Speaks. Miesha brought young poets from the community and Pinellas Country Schools to The Studio@620 to showcase their talent.

Miesha is determined to create more spaces for youth to be heard through their poetry. These young intelligent people are creating currents of change with their powerful writing.

The show was livestreamed and you can tune in by going to Studio@620’s Facebook page. I hope you can check it out!

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You can explore Sara Ries Dziekonski’s work at

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