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ODU Student Named Washington D.C.’s Youth Poet Laureate

By Noell Saunders

Kenneth Carroll remembers writing poems ever since he could pick up a pencil. Now his artistry is gaining momentum.

Carroll, a freshman at Old Dominion University, was recently named the 2017 Washington D.C. Youth Poet Laureate. The honor provides him with a year of networking and mentorship opportunities and a chance to perform at public and private venues.

"It's a tremendous honor. I truly enjoy what I do, and now more people will see that," Carroll said.

The competition was organized by Words Beats & Life, an organization that strives to empower young artists and strengthen community development in the greater Washington area and beyond.

Although Carroll is new to Old Dominion, he's already found his niche with the University's poetry club, Floetic Movement. Members meet once a week to share their work and ideas.

Carroll knew in high school that ODU was the right college choice.

"I found out about ODU because of my high school counselor. She thought it would be a great experience for me. It's a great place," he said.

"Plus, Tim Seibles, the poet laureate of Virginia, teaches here. This was very appealing to me. Norfolk is also very rich in poetry, and I appreciate it."

Carroll was raised in Brookland, a midsize neighborhood in the northeast section of Washington. He credits his early passion for poetry to his parents, who are both writers. His mother is a playwright; his father is the former director of the D.C. WritersCorps and founder of the country's first Youth Poetry Slam League.

Carroll definitely takes after his parents. His poems have appeared in Shelterforce Magazine, a New Jersey publication that focuses on affordable housing and neighborhood stabilization, and The Hill Rag, a community newspaper in Washington.

"My dad would take me to open mics to listen to others. I had a chance to meet a lot of great generational poets," Carroll said. "This is where I gained experience. I literally just fell in love."

Falling in love with his work is Carroll's goal for his fans. But he said it didn't come easy. In fact, Carroll recalled his first open mic as a daunting experience.

"I tried out at a poetry slam competition during my sophomore year of high school at George Mason University," he said. "It was my first time performing in front of other poets. I was so nervous, but it pushed me forward to become a writer."

If there's one piece of advice Carroll would offer aspiring poets, it's always put your best foot forward no matter how challenging the road to success is.

"I think the best way is to get some words on the page," he said, though "you won't like everything you write."

He added, "Listening and reading other poets is also important. If you really want to do it, don't give up. Just keep writing."

For more information about Kenneth Carroll and samples of his work, visit the Word Beats & Life website.

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