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Meet Mercer Island's Own National Student Poet
Meet Nathan Cummings, a senior at Mercer Island High School and one of five chosen National Student Poets.
"It's like a crazy fever dream," said Cummings of having been awarded the highest recognition of its kind for young literary minds.
The awards are part of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. They're administered by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Cummings flew to Washington, D.C. last month for the ceremony where he met Joyce Carol Oates and Michelle Obama.
Cummings read his first novel, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," at age 3, and began writing poetry in the ninth grade. He has tried writing prose, but he prefers the freeform structure that poetry offers.
His poetry subjects can run dark: a decomposed squirrel, the unease felt when around someone very old, a medical condition in which water accumulates in the brain.
"I've lived a pretty decent OK life. I've nothing to complain about," he said. "I'm a storyteller and my notebook is full of crazy ideas. It's my imagination running off-kilter."
He writes on his iPhone. He brainstorms ideas while running long distances. He admits he can sometimes be "a total twit" to his friends, dropping verses here and there.
"They put up with me," he said.
As a National Student Poet, he'll complete a community service project. Past poets have worked with homeless youth.
His message to other teens: Poetry can come from anywhere. And there's a community of young poets where you can find support, no matter who you are.