U.P. Young Poets Program


by Ontionna Brunk, Watersmeet High School

It was your choice—all you wanted
was more, trading welfare for a point.
All we wanted was to be loved.

You’ll never see how hard we try.

No one asks for a sky filled with violence,
families dying, the world blind
to our youth’s pain, blind to our cries.

I see no reason to explain it to you further

For Reasons of the Heart

by Kaylind Hernandez, Iron Mountain
Kingsford Area High School

Dance round the vice in silence. Prick your heart
with the broken record stylus, let it
bleed out and boil, up to your chest, your brain.

It’s slow, no thought to panic, just writhing
in unease. Blood into a steaming pool,
enduring the ancient dance, elusive.

Unpredictable—you can’t look away.

The vice is near and tradition follows,
and for reasons of the heart, you remain
in limbo, in the deafening silence.

If only they had let the needle be.

Good Girl

Good Girl

by Uwaoma Osumili, Sault Ste. Marie
Sault Area High School & Career Center

—For Ese, Uwem, Akum, Uwaoma, Edgar Osumili

From 7-years-old, good girl, you were told,
be good for the nanny, be good for your teachers
Being good was a choice—Good girl.

Be a good girl—I’ll be right back, she says.
She knows it’s a choice you will always choose.
Being good means nothing if it is just a word—Good girl.

You enter a new world, filled with people willing to do wrong,
bullying you into wanting to be like them, flashy, unreal, and fickle.
You know who you are, but you choose to forget—Good girl.

You choose to stop being a good girl, to defy authority,
get your fill of rebellion, then remember your mother—
good girl, I will always love you—Good girl.

Always the intrusive thoughts: Did he leave because
you weren’t good? Or were you just all girls?
You will be good forever after, you think. You hope—Good girl.

First Snow

by Lauryn Ramme, Ironwood
Luther L Wright High School

The first rays of sunlight shine through the trees
and the autumn air blooms with the scent
of fallen leaves and morning dew.
I breathe in the crisp air and wonder,
a droplet softly kisses my nose.
Is it real, or did I imagine it?
Slowly, the sky becomes alight with
an army of crystalline soldiers
and the witch season comes to a close.
The reds and golds of fall begin their final fight—
a battle they know they cannot win.


by Linda Tang, Houghton
Houghton High School

He draws his knees to his chest each morning,
sitting, waiting for the sun to escape
the shadows, to witness the gradual bleed
of red and gold across the world’s canvas.

When the first birdsong rings out across the
country, he tilts his head back and basks in
the beauty of dawn: the silence of the
earth broken only by the chirps of a
warbler, the faint breeze that whisks across his
cheekbones—and the staggering sight of a
crimson red and honey golden sunrise.

To the boy, beauty is defined in red
and gold—and he resolves that he will go
wherever the sun takes him, forever.


by Leah Berkey, Chassell
Houghton High School

We stand barefoot in the mud, watching the
water purl off telephone wires and eaves,
wind shaking droplets of rain from the leaves
above us. I am twelve and she is eight,
her face a younger copy of mine but
with bluer eyes—softer. She asks if rain
is just God crying. I tell her thunder
is just angels bowling, nothing to fear.
I tell her come on, let’s go inside, the
lightning’s started. I tell her to look, and
we press our noses against the glass to
watch the storm, our hair wet, giggling—we
laugh because the world cannot hurt us here,
not in the safety of our thunderstorm.

Note: Leah Berkey’s poem was featured on the Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 edition of Michigan Radio’s Stateside. You can listen to her read “Thunderstorm” by clicking this link—her portion of the segment begins at 41:30.


Throughout his 2021-22 term as U.P. Poet Laureate, M. Bartley Seigel is visiting classrooms across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, encouraging young U.P. poets in the development of their own unique voices, and in the creation of their own original poetry. The very best of those poems will be featured here.

Sault Area High School & Career Center
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

“Too much of what the outside world sees—if they see Michigan’s Upper Peninsula at all—is an oversimplification at best, or a walking cliché at worst. Those of us who’ve made our adult lives here, we’ve done so in complicated ways. But our youth were born to it, and perhaps because they weren’t given much of a say in the matter, they sometimes see it truer than us—who better to write the story of this place than them?”
—M. Bartley Seigel

Luther L Wright High School
Ironwood, Michigan

The U.P. Young Poets Program is made possible by the Academy of American Poets with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Superior Central High School
Eben Junction, Michigan

For media inquiries, or for U.P. educators interested in having M. Bartley Seigel visit their classrooms, please email mbseigel@mtu.edu, subject “U.P. Young Poets Program.”

High School
Republic, Michigan