For junior Caroline Knight, poetry is more than creating a rhyme scheme to celebrate nature, for her, “my poetry is my protest. It is the way I express my activism and allyship for my community.”
Her poem, “free and brave,” recently accepted for publication by The Hopkins Review, is a deeply personal piece of work that she was initially unsure about having published. But she realized, “I’m a unique poet. This is my voice. This is what I want to share. This is how I truly want to write and express myself and how I want to be me. Without any restraints, nothing is holding me back.”
Caroline has been writing for herself since the fourth grade, but the Middle School publication Magpie helped her discover her love of writing poetry. She used this time to write poems about her friends, finding her voice and learning how she wants to express her own thoughts and feelings. “This is all authentic, this is the real me. And that’s when I realized that poetry is my real calling,” she said.
While all of her poems are a personal expression, “free and brave” is unlike many of her others. Caroline wrote “free and brave” the night before the protests in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. She said, “it really hit me in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. From that despair, I learned that I could grow and create something that has substantial meaning.” She channeled her emotion and energy into creating a memorable hook that we all know from the last line of the Star Spangled Banner. “I know the anthem by heart. I’ve heard it, I know it, but when looking back at all the protests… I was thinking more so about America as a society and as a system and I think that’s what led me straight to the national anthem because it’s one thing we can all identify as a nation.”
Caroline firmly believes poetry, and all art, is meant to be shared, but wasn’t sure how her audience would receive a piece using the national anthem. “Something was holding me back, I was saying maybe I’m going to offend some people with the language I use in here. My mom and dad said it’s not about offending people, it’s about expressing your true voice. This is you, this is what you stand for,” she said. And so she decided to move forward with submitting her work to the prestigious journal, The Hopkins Review.
For Caroline, poetry is an art form, and a means of storytelling. She realized, “that I need to tell my story, but it’s not just my story. It’s a shared story among every single Black American, and every single Black person, every single person of a minority culture. I need to tell their story and if I can tell it through my perspective, then that’s good enough for me.”
Poetry might not be the most obvious choice to help create positive change, but for Caroline it is authentic, powerful and represents who she is, “I want to be someone who can share my message while letting other people realize that it’s ok to change. It’s ok to change the way you think about things. Change is necessary in everyday life. And if I can add on to that beneficial change to help this world, then I will do whatever I need to do.”
Caroline was selected as a featured speaker for the Voice of Power section of Healing City Baltimore 2021. The virtual event was started in 2020 to help Baltimore City achieve racial, economic and social equity. Caroline was one of three poets to perform in the Voice of Power portion of the summit. She recited her poem “free and brave” and received glowing praise from the chat room and presenters.