Five young high school students, recipients of the 2016 National Student Poets accolade, were invited to the White House in recognition of their poetry skills.
They delivered their poetry in front of their family and distinguished guests including the First Lady, Michelle Obama, who is also the honorary chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
Two of the five are Tamil Americans Maya Eashwaran & Gopal Raman.
17 year-old Maya from Alpharetta, Georgia, writes a lot of about her personal experiences dealing with assimilation. Maya narrated a poem about her experience as an immigrant and how it was painful to replace her mother tongue Tamil with English.
“I have lost more than I have ever lost in sixteen years. I have started shedding ethnicity like hair: Mother, I fear I’ll go bald,” Maya, 17, concluded reading her poetry. “Ma, I haven’t spoken (Tamil) in three years” amidst applause from the audience.
Her speech starts from the 14th minute into the video below.
“My family is Tamil. I was born here. I write a lot of my poems based on my culture, my heritage,” she told PTI after her White House event.
“The poem that I actually read at the White House linguistics is based on experience of losing my mother tongue and kind of replacing it with another, which is very painful thing to imagine to go through,” she said, adding when she was in the middle school she stared getting interested in poetry.
Gopal, 17, the other Indian-American budding poet who received national attention lives in Dallas and is a high school student.
His parents – father from Chennai and mother from Kerala – moved to the US in the 1980s. He was born here.
“It (love with poetry) started in seventh grade. I had a really great English teacher. He really pushed me in writing in more creative way. I choose poetry as my avenue of writing,” he said.
“I am super honoured to meet the First Lady,” he said.
“I also want to plan for pre-med. My dream job right now is some sort of medical doctor” he added.
At the event, Gopal read out the poem “This Apple”.
The five-year-old program created by the Obama administration honors student poets from five areas of the country. Students begin the program by reading their poetry at a White House reception, then spend a year attending poetry classes and art festivals, and doing community service projects.