By Jill Fox
With her poetry soon-to-be-published and a book tour in the works, Anna Bayuk has a lot to be proud of before she graduates, despite COVID-19 putting a delay in the plans.
Bayuk, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is the first-place winner in the 2020 South Florida Youth Poet Laureate, a competition organized through the Jason Taylor Foundation, known for identifying powerful youth poets.
She submitted her resume and a portfolio, along with other youth poets under 19 across Florida and said it explored mental health, social issues, and motifs of Greek and Roman mythology and how they relate to her life.
Typically, as the South Florida Youth Poet Laureate winner, she would have her poetry published, a book tour, and entry into a regional Poet Laureate competition. However, due to COVID-19, the competition was postponed indefinitely, and she is unsure of the newly rescheduled timeline for her book and tour.
Bayuk titled her collection of poems and original art “Venus of the Swamp,” which is also the title of the first poem in the book. According to her, it is an exploration of Florida and all of its contradictions, the natural beauty, but also the bad things that happen here.
“It supposes a deity as the protector of Florida– Venus of the Swamp,” she explained.
Poetry allows her a way to describe things she wouldn’t be able to otherwise, and her book is her journey of discovery and learning how to love the world again.
“To get conceptual and work things out on paper is a very positive outlet for me,” she said.
Born and raised in Coral Springs, Bayuk is very involved with the slam poetry scene. She works closely with the bluapple Poetry Network, also part of the Jason Taylor Foundation, which gives young writers across South Florida the opportunity to express themselves through the art of spoken word poetry. Students of all ages participate in student-led workshops, virtual poetry readings, and regional conferences.
Bayuk is editor-in-chief of the Artifex literary magazine and serves as president of the Spoken Word Club at MSD.
Last year, their team won first place in the state slam poetry competition, “Louder Than A Bomb Florida,” sometimes referred to as the Super Bowl of poetry. This year, the team placed third in the competition, which took place on Facebook Live on April 7, where Bayuk said it had a much different vibe.
As far as the current situation where she is learning online, Bayuk believes it would have been nice to have graduation as a sense of closure and a celebration of having made it through the past four years at MSD. Still, she said she would have some sort of celebration with her friends.
In the fall, she is looking forward to attending Emory University in Atlanta, where she plans to major in English and creative writing.
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- Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She has worked in public relations and television for over 20 years. Fox lives in Parkland with her husband and their two children.
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