The first lady said she herself has turned to poetry to find joy in other people's words at times, including when she'd lie awake consumed by worry or when she felt lost.
“In the words of others, I found the contours of my own joy,” she said. “I found a place to lay down my fears. I found a compass that would lead me through the darkest of woods. And on the page, tangled in hurried lines, in smudges of ink, I found myself."
“So it's truly special to be able to welcome the 2022 National Student Poets," she said as the five high school poets sat behind her on high stools.
In the State Dining Room, books and knickknacks were stacked on the fireplace mantle beneath a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. A sandwich board advertised a poetry reading at 4:30 p.m. Votive candles flickered on round tables where some 60 guests had taken seats.
Ada Limón, the 24th poet laureate of the United States, called each student up to read their winning work. Biden congratulated the students after the reading and hugged each one.
“We're not just celebrating poetry,” Limón said. “We're celebrating the future of poetry.”
The 2022 National Student Poets, and their schools, are:
—Vidhatrie Keetha, Horace Mann School, Bronx, New York.
—Emily Igwike, University School of Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
—Winslow Hastie Jr., Charleston County School of the Arts, North Charleston, South Carolina.
—Jesse Begay, New Mexico School for the Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
—Diane Sun, Interlake High School Bellevue, Washington.
Biden also recognized this year's 10th anniversary of the National Student Poets Program, which was created in 2012 to highlight the role of writing and the arts in academic and personal success for communities across the country, the White House said.
It is the nation’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work. Alumni from the past decade attended Tuesday's event.
The program selects and provides scholarships annually to five student poets — one from each of the five U.S. geographical regions — to serve as literary ambassadors in their communities.