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Meet Seattle's First Youth Poet Laureate

Leija Farr, Seattle's new youth poet laureate, calls poetry a form of "self-healing."
KUOW photo/RadioActive staff
Leija Farr, Seattle's new youth poet laureate, calls poetry a form of "self-healing."

Seattleites love their poetry. The city is home to one of the nation's few poetry-only bookstores, Open Books, in the Wallingford neighborhood.

The Washington state poet laureate, Elizabeth Austen, is a Seattle resident. And the city recently decided to create a Seattle poet laureate position.

So, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to hear that this past Memorial Day weekend, Seattle acquired its first-ever youth poet laureate, 17-year old Leija Farr.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Leija Farr.", "fid": "118456", "style": "offset_left", "uri": "public://201506/leija1.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Courtesy of SAL Writers in the Schools"}]]Farr, who just completed her junior year at Cleveland High School, entered a competition for the post, sponsored by Seattle Arts and Lectures' Writers in the Schools program.

"My U.S. history teacher, Mr. Shin, he told me about it," says Farr.

Farr says she's always loved words and rhyming; her father is a DJ and rapper. But she didn't get serious about poetry until middle school. She did a rap about teens and drugs that won a contest.

Farr still remembers the poem.

"Thoughts come back with the ashes, life passes. That dope you smoked didn't feel like what you hoped," she recites.

As poet laureate, Leija Farr gets mentors and a book contract. She'll also give readings around the city. The first scheduled event is in September for Seattle Arts and Lectures.

That's all exciting for Farr, but she doesn't write poetry for the celebrity. She calls the art form "self-healing," and she says she uses it to connect with other people who might be going through some of the same things she's experiencing.

Farr declares that "a poet is somebody who's helping the world in a productive way."

Although this 17-year-old, who participated in RadioActive, KUOW's youth program, says she'll probably continue to write poetry, right now that's not what she wants to do with her life. She dreams of travel writing or some other type of journalism.

But first she has to make it through high school.