EDINA, Minn. - A 16-year-old from Edina definitely has a way with words.
Benjamin Lee, an incoming junior at The Blake School in Minneapolis, has been selected for the country's most prestigious youth poetry honor.
Yesterday, the National Student Poets Program (NSPP) announced its sixth class of youth poets. Lee is one of five teenagers who will serve as 2017 National Student Poets. He will represent the Midwest.
Lee found out a week later than the others because he was traveling in Cuba with limited access to the internet.
"I was super surprised to even be considered for the position just because I haven't been writing poetry for that long," said Lee, who has been writing poetry for about a year.
High school sophomores and juniors, who also receive a national medal from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, are eligible to submit work to be considered for the National Student Poets Program. Lee was chosen out of a pool of more than 300 award-winning poets.
"I'm half Korean, my dad was born in Seoul, and the rest of my family is from Canada ... the other side of my family. So that definitely is inspiration for my writing, being a biracial person. Sometimes it's difficult to find your identity and sort of express that," Lee said. "For me, poetry was a way to sort of rationalize with that and find things that were familiar and use them to explain the unfamiliar things about parts of my life including childhood memories, my ethnicity and things like that."
After attending his first day back to school, Lee will travel to Washington, D.C. for a ceremony at the Library of Congress on Aug. 31. There, the poets will be appointed by the Librarian of Congress and the Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
The National Student Poets Program is an initiative of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities in partnership with the IMLS and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.
As a National Student Poet, Lee will also read his work during the National Book Festival and participate in a private workshop with U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. Throughout the year, Lee will serve as a literary ambassador and share his love of poetry with different communities in the Midwest.
You can read some of Lee's poetry here.