For the past 32 years, talented Bucks County high school students have been afforded the opportunity to submit their poems for the chance to be named the Bucks County High School Poet of the Year.
As an ode to the “cultural heritage of the region,” the Bucks County High School Poet of the Year contest is made possible by the Bucks County Poet Laureate Program operating within Bucks County Community College.
Securing the title, monetary prize and opportunity to read her poems at a reception held on May 18th, this year’s Bucks County High School Poet of the Year is Central Bucks High School East Senior, Alesandra Temerte.
“Sasha” resides in Jamison with her family, and is a published author at age 18.
Emigrating to the United States from Uzbekistan at age four, Sasha relocated to Bucks County from Northeast Philadelphia in fifth grade.
Shocked at her contest win, Sasha recalls, “When I received the phone call, I was ecstatic. I applied months ago, so I wasn’t expecting the call and when they revealed I was the Poet of the Year, I had to reconfirm it was true.” As a senior, she finds her win an ideal way to celebrate her high school graduation, “Because I am a graduating senior, it felt like the perfect culmination of all the years I spent writing in high school.”
Winning the contest arrives for Sasha at a time where her poems are already available for purchase in her debut book, “Peace and Other Radical Ideas,” on Amazon.com through their independent publishing platform, CreateSpace.
Describing the eight-chapter book, Sasha notes, “The book is meant to promote peace, equality, understanding, and change through pieces that humanize social issues in an insightful manner.”
Landing Sasha the contest win, are three of her poems titled, “A Poem About Heartbreak or Climate Change,” “Things that Happen Every Day,” and “Temptations.”
These are poems with “elements of love, politics, humanity, snapshots of people’s lives as they encounter life-altering situations, diverse backgrounds, moral dilemmas, safety and risk.”
Reflecting on her journey as a writer, Sasha identifies her writing as a “byproduct of being a reader since the moment she could hold a book; I lived in stories and I dreamed of building universes the way my favorite authors could.”
Her love of poetry formed in later years, “In high school, I stumbled upon spoken word poetry, fell in love with the performance and shortly thereafter slipped fully into poetry. Poetry provided a more direct path to connecting with others on a meaningful level, along with greater creative liberties and opportunities to engage in abstract thought.”
Describing her writing process, Sasha states, “Although I believe that after a point, writing involves less of a ‘muse’ and more of a working revision process, my favorite poems arose at those moments when inspiration hits. If it is a warm day, my favorite place to write is outdoors, especially if it’s evening and there is rain falling around me. In all honesty, I write anywhere.”
Though writing is Sasha’s claim to fame, her interests extend beyond the written word. “My schedule is packed between AP classes and running multiple extracurriculars; organizing the school’s coffeehouse, political debating, conducting research experiments, and playing chess.” Spending time with friends, hiking and walking, photography and philosophical conversations are also Sasha’s interests.
In planning for the future, Sasha will begin Syracuse University as a Coronat Scholar in the fall. Aspiring to obtain her degree in applied mathematics and double major or minor in writing, philosophy or business, as of right now, Sasha plans “to work as an actuary before returning to graduate school.”
However, Sasha does not plan to abandon her writing pursuits during her college career, explaining, “I will undoubtedly continue writing on the side. By keeping writing my personal passion as opposed to my primary career, I’m ensuring that my love for the craft remains genuine and raw.”
To advise aspiring writers, Sasha imparts, “Leonardo da Vinci once said, ‘Art is never finished – only abandoned.’ Poetry is no exception. Be receptive to constructive criticism and revise your poems with fresh eyes on multiple occasions – over time, you will see your poetry evolve. Embrace new ideas. Take note of details – those could set apart a good poem from a great one. At the end of the day, believe in your words.”
To those who may doubt their abilities or question their credibility as a writer, Sasha’s final note is a call to confidence. “There is never a single right answer, so trust your intuition, and stay true to your voice and your message. Everything else will fall into place. The moment you grasp the pen, you become a writer – don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.”
PHOTO CAP: Sasha Temerte with her book, “Peace and Other Radical Ideas.”