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Huntington native earns national poetry honor

September 4, 2018

Darius Atefat-Peckham, left, receives a plaque from Kathryn Matthew, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Servics, after being appointed a 2018 National Youth Poet during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., Thursday, Aug. 30.

HUNTINGTON - Huntington native Darius Atefat-Peckham was chosen out of thousands to be one of five National Youth Poets, the nation’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work.

Atefat-Peckham, a senior at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, was officially appointed to the 2018 class of National Youth Poets Thursday in Washington, D.C. A group of Huntington supporters watched the appointment ceremony in the Cabell County Library in Huntington.

“It feels really good to have a platform to promote poetry, writing and literature in general,” Atefat-Peckham said in a telephone interview with The Herald-Dispatch. “It was great to be able to get on stage and read my poetry to those who wanted to listen.”

Atefat-Peckham was chosen for his work “The Beautiful Day Dance,” which is dedicated to his father who was widowed at age 33, and “My Father Learns Sex Education.”

“I got into poetry as a way to help me with grieving the loss of my mother and my brother,” Atefat-Peckham said.

Atefat-Peckham says his mom was a poet and his step-mom and dad are both writers.

“Writing poetry is just something that has always made sense for me,” he said. “This recognition now gives me the opportunity and resources to help others get involved in the arts, like I did. I want to teach others what I have been taught.”

The National Student Poets Program is an initiative in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the nation’s primary source of federal funding for museums and libraries, and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, which presents the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. To be considered for appointment as a National Student Poet, students first must receive a National Medal from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the nearly century-old program known for its recognition and celebration of the country’s most creative teens.

Throughout the year, the poets will serve as literary ambassadors and will share their passion for poetry and literacy with their communities and at libraries and museums throughout their regions. This will be done through service projects, workshops, and public readings. In addition, each poet will receive a $5,000 academic award. Atefat-Peckham will complete his service projects in Huntington.

“I don’t have the details finalized regarding my year of service, but I would like to go to libraries, museums and schools to instill in kids a love for poetry, writing and literature in general,” he said.

Before the ceremony, in Huntington, the library hosted an open mic poetry slam, inviting local poets to share their original work or read from a selection of poetry, such as work from Atefat-Peckham’s father, Joel Peckham, a professor at Marshall University.

“We are just so excited to have him,” said Judy Rule, Cabell County Libraries director. “It is such an honor to have our residents honored in this way.”

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