The 2018 Poet Laureate is Tejaswini Sudhaker. Her poem is titled "Waiting to Swim."

The first place she ever felt real 

was on the brick floor in the foyer;

June morning, we sat in the summer heat

Our sneakers and those neon, nylon shorts

gripping the floor, gripping onto this final 


High school was quickly approaching,

A sea of uncharted waters;

Reckless waves lapped at our feet

and we waited to dive.


The first place she ever felt incompetent

was desk #23 in room 413;

She sat in her first math class, watching

asymptotes and formulas swim on her


But it felt nice to know everyone was drowning


The first place she ever felt powerful

was lying 20 feet above ground;

The metal bars shifted with her weight

and the dull stage;

lights washed over her eyes,

An unfamiliar stillness settled over the empty seats

and the silence kept her intact


The first place she ever felt mute 

Was standing behind a podium

A classroom of 92 eyes blinking up at her

She had so much to give

but her words sank beneath her doubt,

Never found their way out


The first place she ever felt heard 

was standing in the bleachers

Wave by wave, we rose

a tsunami on the horizon

Our voices blending into one, we pleaded:

Kentucky students will not be silenced

and neither would she.


The first place she ever felt trapped 

was in a class full of new faces;

Their conversations floated around her but

Even through the noise,

she felt empty


The first place she ever felt liberated 

Was mid-May, middle of the gym floor;

Her thoughts overflowed with finals,

With grades and goodbyes, and getaways,

but tonight was about music,

Tonight, she held her instrument high

And note by note, she breathed


The first place she ever felt directionless

Was in her seminar class, senior year;

College banners littered the walls,

harbored every corner

Names and places and experiences

making her dizzy

Her mind was a broken compass, spinning,

and spinning

She wondered when it would ever stop


The first places I ever felt momentous 

is right here.


We sit together, underwater

Waiting for our names to break the surface

Waiting to seize our future,

Waiting and waiting and waiting

This is the last place we’ll ever be high-schooler

This is the last moment we’ll hold our breath



Are you ready to swim?


-Tejaswini Sudhaker

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