Baltimore native Joey Reisberg may only be 17, but as the 2016 National Student Poet representing the Northeast, he has already touched many readers and listeners with his beautiful words. Reisberg, who studies Literary Arts at the George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson, serves as an ambassador for youth in the Baltimore region and will present his work at two upcoming readings this month.
The teenage writer says his interest in poetry was first sparked by his mother’s readings of nursery rhymes, and evolved when he discovered that poetry could be used as an expression of self.
“I liked the spirit of the rhyme and the rhythm,” he says. “Poetry is ambiguous and vague, and I like how there are less constraints to it.”
He cites “life” as his inspiration, which seems a bit vague until he explains.
“I see poetry as the greatest way of saying ‘I’m alive, I have human experiences,’” he says. “I like to celebrate life in my poems.” (Other interests include social issues, identity and magic, as well as “Jewish and Queer identity, myths and the supernatural.”)
Since being named a National Student Poet, Reisberg has used his influence to better Baltimore and effect change. This summer, as part of a service project for his position, he is hoping to work with other Baltimore High School students to workshop and present their writing, emphasizing art as a creative outlet. On April 29, he will join a “Writers Resist” reading as part of the CityLit Festival. In both instances, he says he hopes that the community will see that while poetry can certainly make a powerful statement, it can also be fun.
“It’s a way of becoming vulnerable in a safe way,” he says. “It’s a powerful tool. It creates these moments for us to elevate the everyday and make it somewhat sacred. I hope people appreciate poetry as something alive.”
As for the more distant future? Right now, Reisberg is focused on making the most of high school, but in 5-10 years he hopes to be surrounded by books and sharing his love of words with young students.
“I am thinking of being an English teacher or a librarian,” he says. “I love to help kids discover great literature and have fun while reading. It doesn’t have to be a chore.”
Reisberg will be reading at Lincoln Center on April 19th as part of the Academy of American Poets Event. He will also be reading at the 14th Annual CityLit Festival on April 29th at the University of Baltimore’s William H. Thumel Sr. Business Center. Catch his poems appearing or forthcoming in Red Queen, Moledro, Sugar Rascals, Fissure, and the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards website.