Introducing your
2022 National Youth Poet Laureate,
Alyssa Gaines
Date: May 26, 2022
Lauren Marie Hall Riggins, Director of Indianapolis Youth Poet Laureate, 317-908-3617
Indianapolis Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate Takes Home National Title
Alyssa Gaines Named National Youth Poet Laureate
INDIANAPOLIS - Alyssa Gaines, the inaugural Indianapolis Youth Poet Laureate, was named the sixth National Youth Poet Laureate (NYPL) in a ceremony last Friday (May 20) at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.. The National Youth Poet Laureate program is a program of Urban Word, and the Indianapolis Youth Poet Laureate program is its affiliate and led by VOICES (see
Gaines will hold this title for a year. During this time, she will lead writing workshops, speak and perform at civic and cultural events across the country, and write a monthly blog which is hosted by the Library of Congress. She will also work to advance social justice issues important to her and advance the goals of the Youth Poet Laureate programs to cultivate and amplify youth voice and action.
Gaines was the first-ever laureate from Indianapolis to win the Midwest regional competition, thereby becoming one of four regional finalists to compete for the national title. Gaines beat out three other regional finalists who are from New York City, Los Angeles, and South Florida to earn the NYPL title. As NYPL, Gaines will continue the powerful legacy of civic action, literary excellence, and social impact set by the inaugural NYPL, Amanda Gorman, who is best known for her performance at the 46th presidential inauguration and Super Bowl LV.
Gaines has participated in VOICES’ spoken word poetry programming (formerly called Indy Pulse now called Indianapolis Youth Poet Laureate), since she was a third grader. She has continued to serve, impact, and inspire her local, state, and national communities since her early years. As a pre-teen Gaines competed in the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival Slam in Washington, D.C. where she earned the only perfect score. Her panel of judges included then National Youth Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, the first Indigenous American to earn this title, leaders from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the first woman and first African American to serve as the Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden.
At the center of Gaines’s work is her commitment to racial justice, collective healing, and ensuring all students have access to the transformative power of the arts regardless of identity and socio-economic background. An Indianapolis native, Gaines prioritizes amplifying the voices, stories, and resilience of her
community. National Youth Poet Laureate judges had the following to say: the esteemed scholar Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings said that “Alyssa’s work is timely, interrogative, and weaves together multiple themes, multilingualism, research data, and art. Her work makes you think, feel, and act;” acclaimed writer Cathy Linh Che, observes that “Alyssa Gaines' poems are fierce, wide ranging, funny, and hopeful, bearing witness to the many complexities of growing up in East Indianapolis, in a household that is many-tongued, brimming with beauty and grief. I see in Gaines' poetry the spirit of June Jordan and Sonia Sanchez, Black women poets whose craft of the page lifts up its stunning orality."
VOICES Director of the Indianapolis Youth Poet Laureate, Lauren Marie Hall Riggins has worked with Gaines since she first started writing poetry. Hall Riggins notes that “this well-deserved accolade is a win for Alyssa and for every Indiana youth, each of whom’s experiences, expertise, and dreams can, and
should be, the north star for how we heal, hope, and vitalize our path to a thriving Hoosier state for all.”
Since an early age, Gaines has been curious, passionate, and energized to impact social issues involving youth and her community. Her words welcome thought and spark change. Before being named National Youth Poet Laureate, Gaines, has been a featured poet at several local Indianapolis youth-led
engagements, and been featured in Nuvo , a local Indianapolis newspaper, the IndyStar , and NPR . Watch Gaines’ NYPL application video here, which was created by Michael Louis Schrader of Pink Bike Media (see and collaborators.

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