Bishop Kenny senior wins national inaugural poetry contest

Hallie Knight
Hallie Knight

Twenty-two-year-old Amanda Gorman, the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate, may have wowed the crowd with the poem she recited during the Inauguration for Joe Biden Jan. 20, but she is not the only young poet to receive national acclamation. Bishop Kenny Senior Hallie Knight, 17, of San Marco also received national recognition when she won a contest organized by the Academy of American Poets for an inauguration poem that she wrote for a class at Bishop Kenny High School.

Knight’s poem, “To Rebuild,” included some well-formed ideas about the present state of the country and what she would like to see changed. As the winner, she received a $1,000 cash prize and a chance to have her poem featured on and in American Poets Magazine.

To Rebuild

The house was built,
Brick by brick, pane by pane,
Initially withstanding winds,
The force of a hurricane.

But over time, the faults are found
As storm after storm
Assails, the craftsmanship outdated,
In need of reform.

The windows break, one by one,
Under the weight of wrongs, the structure strains,
Until one day fire catches,
And only the foundation of good intentions remains.

While easiest would be to walk,
To abandon, moving on to rebuild,
The value is seen by those who have called it
Home, desires to be fulfilled.

Remembering the mistakes,
Maintaining the hope of freedom,
Hand in hand, we work,
Entering a new season.

The work is not complete until
The walls protect all who live there,
No exceptions. Abandonment of all
Unnecessary despair.

A job led by all, not by one,
We work long days turn long nights.
The creation of our hands
Proving more than surface level acknowledgment of rights.

The past is not buried
But underlies
What we have transformed
Before our eyes.

Hallie Knight

Knight said she was inspired by W.H. Auden’s poem, “As I Walked Out One Evening,” and Adrienne Rich’s literary work, “Storm Warnings.” In crafting her award-winning piece, she likened the United States to a house that has been severely but not hopelessly damaged.

“I wanted to acknowledge the greatness of the potential for our country at this present moment, and the opportunity we have as citizens to choose what it becomes out of all this chaos,” she said.

Guidelines for the contest required that the student be under age 17 and submit work that reflects “on the country’s challenges, strengths, and hope for its future.” A former inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, who read a poem at the 2013 inauguration of President Barak Obama, served as the judge of the contest. In an article written by the Associated Press, Blanco said Knight’s imagery impressed him, and he likened it to Abraham Lincoln’s famous warning that a “house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Knight was one of three poets recognized in the contest. Runner up was 17-year-old Mina King of Shreveport, Louisana, for her poem, “In Pursuit of Dawn.” Third place went to Gabrielle Marshall of Richmond, Virginia for her poem, “The Power of Hope.”

A superior student, Knight was also recognized as the Bishop Kenny High School Student of the Month for January. She was selected for academics highlighting initiative and commitment. She has a rigorous schedule with six AP-level classes and is involved in several extra-curricular activities as well as Campus Ministry. She is a board member for the Interact Club, and a member of the History Club at school. She is also an Extraordinary Minister of the Holy Eucharist and a member of the National Honor Society, the Science Honor Society, and the Math Honor Society. Last fall, she was named a National Merit Semifinalist having scored in the top 1% in the country on the PSAT. Of the 70,000 high school juniors who took the test from throughout the state of Florida, only 879 in the state were designated as semifinalists due to their high score on the test. The finalists will be confirmed in February 2021.

She has also been a part of Bishop Kenny’s cross-country team since her freshman year.

Although she has not settled on what college she will attend next year, Knight hopes to major in chemical engineering and has expressed an interest in attending Georgia Tech.

“Bishop Kenny is a place where I have made friends that will last a lifetime,” Knight said. “It allowed me to combine academic courses and AP art along with encouraging my love for community outreach. They all bring me a sense of joy that I want to continue with throughout my life.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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