Sophie Kim announced as the 2018 Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate

Sophie Kim is a 17-year-old poet, playwright, filmmaker and LGBTQ activist. She is a rising senior at Harvard-Westlake High School in Studio City, Calif. and was crowned the newest L.A. Youth Poet Laureate.

At the beginning of her poetry career, Kim mainly focused on poetry meant to be read. It was not until her junior year when she decided to apply for her school’s slam team and the L.A. Youth Poet Laureate competition last year, where she received runner-up, that she began to explore poetry meant to be performed: slam and spoken word.

Kim found her love for reading and poetry at a young age. (Blake Atwell / L.A. Times HS Insider)

“Writing poetry has helped me find who I want to be and what I want to do in the world. I have met amazing people not only from my slam team but also from competitions,” Kim said.

To enter in the L.A. Youth Poet Laureate competition, Kim had to discuss social justice activities and submit a CD recording of her poem that was judged on the writing and performance. She qualified as one of the 12 finalists and performed her poem ‘Untitled’ at the competition.

“Writing about as a queer person sometimes it feels like there are certain benchmarks you have to hit to be apart of a community,” Kim said. “I am more than this identity, but I am also fully this identity. My poem was a critique and almost a protest.”

When she first came out to her family in middle school, she feared that some people might view her differently. During this time, she found solace in LGBTQ poetry from various authors that inspired her. Their works have molded the way she writes today, Kim said.

In addition to poetry, Kim enjoys self-expression through playwriting and filmmaking. During her recent trip to Guatemala, Kim documented the blend of Catholicism and Mayan religions after the Spanish Conquest.

Her objective was to bring different ideas together and bring different groups of people together.

When reflecting on her writings, Kim wants all writers to continue to push their limits.

“I have learned that sometimes in writing, we put limitations about what we think we should write about or can write about,” Kim said. “There is always people to write for and people to write to. Always remember that fighting for an issue you care about, even when it seems no one is listening, is still worth it.”

The Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate, now in its fourth year, is a program working in collaboration with the L.A. Public Library, Urban Word Los Angeles, L.A. County Commission on Human Relations, PEN Center USA and Academy of American Poets.

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