Arts District

Towson Teen Honored With National Poetry Award at White House

We chat with 17-year-old Joey Reisberg, a 2016 inductee of the National Student Poet Program.
National Student Poets White House First Lady Michelle Obama
Courtesy of Scholastic

How was it, being inducted by Michelle Obama?
It was surreal. I still haven’t entirely processed it yet. Being in the White House was like a walking dream. Everything seems strangely familiar from TV but also so exciting and surreal. I highly doubt anything in my life will be as nerve-wracking and cool as reading a poem there. Were were also lucky enough to have a conversation about writing with Michelle Obama’s speechwriters and that was very fun. Michelle Obama is so nice and wonderful. Knowing that the First Lady is passionate about poetry and this program is so rewarding as a writer.

What do your future plans look like?
This is really long-term, but I’ve always wanted to be an English teacher. I love seeing people get excited in English class. I’ve been lucky enough to have good English teachers in high school—pretty great ones—and just seeing my classmates come to life discussing old and new works of literature makes me so happy.

Would you ever consider being a poet as a career?
I’m always going to want to write poetry—I’m always going to find downtime to write, just because I feel nervous when I don’t. I have so many things to say. So I’ll always write, but teaching is really what I think I want to do with my future.

Has living in Maryland inspired or influenced any of your writing?
I’ve written some Baltimore-based poems. I’m really inspired by John Waters and Divine and that whole counterculture of Baltimore. This city has a unique spirit and lots of poetic potential. There are small groups working hard to create poetry communities, but I don’t see any poetry readings comparable to what you could find in D.C., for example. While I don’t have any set ideas in mind just yet, I know I would love to work with Baltimore residents in creating a poetry workshop or something of the sort.

Do you have any advice for young poets or writers?
Yes. Make friends with English teachers. Make friends with teachers that love words. I promise they’ll be great guides and inspirations for you. Also, keep yourself open to wonder and amazement. Don’t close yourself off to what’s going on around you. Sometimes I like to just sit and observe. When I’m waiting for the bus, I’ll just look at the way the light is hitting a building.

And this is another piece of advice: Carry an notebook so you can write down all the little things that come to you in the day, because I think being a poet means being receptive to the world around you and knowing how to translate that into words. Be receptive to the world around you.