Nashville's New Poet Laureate Can Make A Crowd Gasp | Nashville Public Radio

Nashville's New Poet Laureate Can Make A Crowd Gasp

Dec 18, 2017

Harpeth Hall sophomore Haviland Whiting is Nashville’s new youth poet laureate after winning the annual spoken word competition hosted by Southern Word and several Metro agencies, including Mayor Megan Barry's office.

Whiting’s winning performance opened and closed with her singing — and in the middle, she decried abuses against black women.

“Like a cut tongue, constantly forced to apologize for femininity for too long. Black women have been hiding our ammunition tongues — boxing up our bodies like cargo. But what I’m saying is that we are cargo. By now we should probably know that, though,” Whiting delivered on mic at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music.

Her poem elicited several reactions from the crowd — snaps and sometimes gasps — that often accentuated her lines, including, “the female body is a loaded gun. Maybe that’s why we’re debating gun control. To be woman and to be black is to know that your beauty does not belong to you.”

Whiting becomes the city’s fourth youth poet laureate. In a Harpeth Hall blog post, she said she’ll use her platform this year to spread awareness of everyday injustices. She’ll also be working on a book of her poetry.

“I’m grateful that the Nashville Youth Poet Laureate program, as well as the art of poetry in general, has given a way for young people to voice their opinions in such a peaceful and beautiful medium,” Whiting said in advance of the final competition.

The three other finalists were Airis Aaron, Monserrat Escobar Arteaga, and Ibrahim Mohyuddin.