Lately, Fareena Arefeen’s poetry has been more autobiographical. “Being a young Bengali girl in America is a very specific experience,” she says. “But recently I’ve opened up to writing about that.”
The 16-year-old junior at Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts was named the city’s second Youth Poet Laureate Thursday night. It’s a position created last year by Writers in the Schools, a non-profit that works to strengthen students’ writing skills.
The organization’s Robin Reagler says Arefeen’s personal stories are part of what make her writing so compelling. “Her immigrant experience was very profound,” Reagler says. “She talked about the ways in which her mother, a single mother, was working in a gas station, but is also a poet in her native language of Bengali.”
Reagler adds that they look for candidates who show a desire to make Houston a better city through bringing poetry to the community. Arefeen already has some ideas. “I’m really looking to put poetry in unexpected places,” she says. “So, putting poetry on the ground, between stairs and on bricks around Houston. I feel like poetry, for a lot of people, can come up when they’re not expecting it.”
The one-year term includes a book deal, a scholarship, and the chance to be mentored by the city’s Poet Laureate, Robin Davidson. Arefeen replaces former HSPVA student Andrew White, now a freshman at New York University.