York College Student Named NYC Youth Poet Laureate

Camryn BrunoCamryn Bruno hopes to raise awareness of social issues – and help others find new ways to speak about them – through poetry. Now that she has been named NYC Youth Poet Laureate for 2019, the first-year York College student has a platform to do just that.

“We are very proud of Camryn Bruno and the fact that York College is host to New York City’s 2019 Youth Poet Laureate,” says Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz. “Through her words, Camryn encourages us all to think critically about the world and to become civically engaged. As Camryn progresses through CUNY and beyond, we know she will continue to call attention to important issues in our society.”

The 19-year-old Bruno distinguished herself among a field of 15 finalists in the poetry contest, held at Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Nov. 5. The NYC Youth Poet Laureate program, sponsored by Urban Word NYC and NYC Votes, provides a platform for young writers to spark change through literary excellence and civic engagement. Bruno currently is majoring in communications technology, with minors in sociology and English. She expresses a love of working with children, and says she would enjoy becoming a teaching artist, hosting workshops and teaching children about poetry.

Bruno, who came to New York City from Tobago one year ago, calls herself a fierce advocate for women, immigrants and minorities and writes about injustice in its many forms, including the societal constructs that keep people in poverty.  Her work also focuses on colorism – discrimination based on skin color – racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. Looking at society and “the way of life of people,” she draws her inspiration from news stories and her Twitter feed, and says her poetry “really comes from the heart.”

“I think it’s more about getting the social issues out there, and that’s where I started off, writing about teenage pregnancy and the school-to-prison pipeline,” says Bruno. “It’s really about finding social issues and finding a new way to speak about them.”

The winning poem, “Politics Bite,” shows Bruno’s skillful use of wordplay and conveys outrage over widespread apathy about government, despite persistent inequality and corruption.

Bruno got her introduction to poetry in 2014, when she lived in Tobago and participated in the 2 Cents Movement, a spoken-word poetry program. At a poetry and storytelling workshop, she met her future mentor, Derron Sandy, who took note of her talent in writing and performance. “I used to write all the time, but I didn’t think that what I was writing was spoken-word poetry,” Bruno says, noting that Sandy encouraged her to develop her skills.

She participated in her school’s poetry slam each year until she graduated from Tobago’s Bishop High School; she won the 2015 Zelma A. Cowie Award for Civic Mindedness, the Ms. Tobago Heritage Personality Competition, and several Trinidad and Tobago National Literary Youth Awards. And, in 2017, she became the youngest competitor to win Trinidad and Tobago’s First Citizens Bank National Poetry Slam Championship.

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in 1847, CUNY counts 13 Nobel Prize and 24 MacArthur (“Genius”) grant winners among its alumni. CUNY students, alumni and faculty have garnered scores of other prestigious honors over the years in recognition of historic contributions to the advancement of the sciences, business, the arts and myriad other fields.  The University comprises 25 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, CUNY Graduate Center, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, CUNY School of Law, CUNY School of Professional Studies and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 275,000 degree-seeking students. CUNY offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies.