Urbstetiks Announces Two 2022 St. Louis Youth Poet Laureate Winners

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(ST. LOUIS Tuesday, February 22, 2022) –For the first time, Urbstetiks has named two poets as the 2022 St. Louis Youth Poets Laureate. The talented students are Lauren Barton, a senior at Pattonville High School, and Hobie Wolff, a junior at Crossroads College Preparatory School.

“The selection of Hobie and Lauren represents the challenge of this year’s selection process,” said Urbstetiks founder MK Stallings.

While other youth poet laureate programs have made similar decision to name two winners, this is new for St. Louis. Wolff and Barton will serve jointly as the region’s Co-Youth Poet Laureate of St. Louis, an honor bestowed upon five other youth poets before now.

“Winning this competition means the absolute world to me. Before it, I had convinced myself not to enter because I was sure I couldn’t win. In fact, I rarely even shared my poetry with anyone because it was so personal to me. And now, to have won such a prestigious position feels like the opportunity I’ve been looking for: a chance to finally put my voice and writing out there for others to hear. Having a co-winner with me just means another voice out there for even more people to hear, and I could not be more excited to share this opportunity and journey with Lauren,” said Wolff.

Barton also viewed winning the laureateship as an affirmation of her talent.

“To be named the St. Louis Youth Poet Laureate means that I am going in the right steps, to achieve my goal of being the poet that I want to be. This victory — for both me and Hobie — proves that young artists can be heard. I’ve been writing for quite some time now, and to be given this title shows me that there will always be someone out there that can see your potential and efforts towards your goal,” said Barton.

The Co-Youth Poets Laureate of St. Louis will be asked to recite their works at various events this year and given opportunities to publish select works. This fall, they will lead the Youth Poetry Summit along with competition finalists Vivian Wang of John Burroughs High School and Jelani Penny-Johnson of Metro Academic and Classical High School. Wang and Penny-Johnson earned the title Youth Poet Ambassadors and will be asked to support youth poetry workshop facilitation.

“All the finalists demonstrated skill while offering urgent poems that speak to this moment,” Stallings said before adding, “We look forward to seeing them engage audiences throughout the region.”

March 6th at 4:00 pm, Urbstetiks will host the induction ceremony virtually and in-person at UrbArts Gallery in Old North St. Louis. This event is free and open to the public. For details, visit UrbArts.org.


Bio and Poetry of 2022 Co-Youth Poet Laureate Lauren Barton:

Lauren Barton is the 2022 Co-Youth Poet Laureate of St. Louis. Barton is a senior at Pattonville High School. As a poet, she likes to discuss challenges within the Black community through topics such as, generational trauma and unaccounted mental health. Additionally, she likes to write emotional pieces allowing others to relate to her themes and help them conquer feelings of loneliness. Upon graduating, she intends to further explore medicine, particularly emergency medicine, labor/delivery, and neurology. In the future, Barton hopes to obtain her doctorate in nursing.


An excerpt of “Pendulum Boy” by Lauren Barton

 Big lipped, nappy haired,

dark skinned man

Waits for the pendulum

To reach him.


The glass pendulum holds

Cryptic messages

Every man must receive

In order to be



Pale, neat haired, pink skinned man

Pushes on the pendulum.


Known by many

Pale boy controls everything

Even the force of gravity


The pendulum stops midway

In effort of making it,

To the dark-skinned man


He’s never known

What’s It’s like

To touch the pendulum.



Bio and Poetry of 2022 Co-Youth Poet Laureate Hobie Wolff:

Hobie Wolff is the 2022 Co-Youth Poet Laureate of St. Louis. Wolff is a junior at Crossroads College Preparatory School where she is an active member of the community. She tutors younger students, volunteers at school events, while also playing three sports. This year, she was a member of the school’s varsity volleyball team which went on to win the conference. She rekindled her love for poetry through a summer course in Spoken Word and has since been teaching a class on how to write and recite Spoken Word at her school. Through Wolff’s poetry she tries to capture things people are often too afraid to say and hopes to use this art form to inspire others to find their own voice, just as she has found her own. She aims to keep studying Mandarin and chemistry throughout college and continue her poetry in the future.


Excerpt of “City of Houses” by Hobie Wolff

I wonder if the family still remembers to miss it- I hope they miss it

I don’t want people to forget to miss me

I don’t want to be left alone to crumble in front of a highway

Boards plastered over the parts of me that aren’t whole enough

I was built to house people inside of my ribcage and support them in my palm

My walls made to be drawn on and my floors made to scratched

We should be loved until we fall apart

Not pushed away and left to crumble

I was built to be loved



About the St. Louis Youth Poet Laureate Program:

Started in 2016, the St. Louis Youth Poet Laureate program is a joint effort of Urban Word NYC and Urbstetiks. The program aims to identify young writers and leaders across St. Louis who are committed to civic and community engagement, poetry and performance, human relations, diversity, and education. Previous St. Louis Youth Poets Laureate include Bisa Adero, Zach Lesmeister, Camryn Howe, Sarah Abbas, and Grace Ruo.


About Urbstetiks:

Urbstetiks is a youth-centered, arts-based nonprofit organization based in north St. Louis. Its mission is to create creative platforms for youth and community development. In addition to administering the St. Louis Youth Poet Laureate program, it offers the award-winning Youth Poetry Slam program, through which a team of St. Louis youth poets won the 2019 and 2020 Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam. Other Urbstetiks programs include its art exhibition series and open mic poetry in Old North St. Louis. Find more information online at Urbstetiks.org.


About Urban Word and the National Youth Poet Laureate Program:

The National Youth Poet Laureate Program is championed by Urban Word and celebrates teen poets at the intersection of artistic excellence, social impact, and youth leadership. Currently in more than 50 cities across the United States, this program engages partnerships between local youth literary arts, youth leadership programs, and city government. For more information, please visit youthlaureate.org.

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