The 2016 Poet Laureate is Joanna Slusarewicz. Her poem is titled "Who We Are, Together."

I’d give some advice, But I haven’t got any.

Ad someone still wading through my own oceans

I’m hardly the kid to tell you where to dock your boats,

Where to find your reflection in

The horizon between the past and the future.

I don’t know you like you know yourself,

I don’t know your struggles or your dreams

And I can’t tell you what they all “mean”.

But after four years of floating through high school,

I can tell you what I’ve learned.


Perhaps the most important lesson was that,

Despite how difficult, how treacherous,

How dark and painful and terrifying it got,

I overcame puberty. We overcame puberty.

It doesn’t matter what grade you got in biology:

You took the most difficult biological test in the world

And you passed it.


The next lesson I learned was that sometimes

It was the small things I remembered more than the large.

It wasn’t the inopportune fire alarms, it was the

Huddling, hardly moving, watching our breath puff around


It wasn’t just the words Manny Scott booming from the 


It was the timid confession of the kid we didn’t notice,

It was the shift in the atmosphere, the slowing breath.

In united pain, we found our freedom.


I also learned “stuff.” Like water, information sloshes

Through my head, there and gone, glittering,

Unstable and mine. Factoring, the periodic table.


Romeo and Juliet, bypassing them through my mind

I made them mine. In honor of this knowledge, I’d like to 

Present the rest of this poem in theme statements.


Sometimes in life, what you learn isn’t as important

As who you learn it with,


Sometimes in life, your teachers know best.

Sometimes in life, you know best.


Sometimes in life, we get lost in the details,

We get lost in huge hallways and hundreds of faces,

In assignments and parties and Snapchat

And music and tears and laughs and growing up and 

We forget that we are together. In this room,

We are not children floating away from each other into

The world.


We are adults who share more collective memories

That you could imagine. State championship.

Red socks. Dunabr parking lot. With these words

we are not just individuals journeying, we are

A room full of people thinking the exact same thing. 

We share an intangible bond with our memories.

You share a piece of the same soul

With people in this room you’ve never even met.


I don’t have any advice for you.

Only a promise:

that you will live the rest of your life

With the memory of “us.”

No matter how far our minds expand,

how distant we seem, we are always “us.”

We are our memories; we are our collective love for



Despite our differences, we are Dunbar.


-Joanna Slusarewicz

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