New York’s next generation of poets


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A sixth grader’s winning poem captures the spirit and voice of Manhattan



“The bodega is where we tell our truth.”

This astute line isn’t the work of a wizened poet of yore. Rather, it came from Rashel Vargas, a Manhattan sixth grader. Vargas, who attends the Police Athletic League’s afterschool program at the Polo Grounds location, is the Manhattan winner of the PAL’s Poetry Writing Contest for children with her poem “My Culture, My Parents.”

The annual poetry contest is open to budding lyricists in first through eighth grades in all five boroughs. Vargas, along with the other winning poets, will have the opportunity to work with a spoken word professional and perform at the annual Poet’s Café at Affirmation Arts Gallery in Manhattan, and have her work included in an anthology. Clearly, these young poets contain multitudes.

My Culture, My Parents

by Rashel Vargas

The culture helps to shape me,

The latin girls running around each street.

The tangled hair that makes us who we are.

The block is our family.

The bodega is where we tell our truth,

And share our neighbor’s secrets.

The culture helps to shape me.

The people who raised us,

Protect us every day.

The country my parents are from,

Was given up to come here for better opportunities.

The culture helps shape me,

But my parents make us who we are.


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