The AVBOB Poetry Competition | 4 Inspirational Poems Relevant to the Youth of Today | AVBOB Poetry

4 Inspirational Poems Relevant to the Youth of Today

Young people today traverse a vastly different set of challenges than what the youth of the past faced. Younger Millennials and those of Generation Z have mountains before them when it comes to complex societal issues, such as mental health, the fight for social justice and equality, environmentalism, and navigating an age of information saturation.

Then there are those that are merely struggling to get ahead and make it in a world in which they are already set up to fail. In the last decade alone, much progress has been made – but the fight ahead is daunting. This constant awareness of what must still be accomplished leaves many of today’s young people already burnt out, tired, and pessimistic about humanity. This is where the arts, and poetry in particular, can strengthen one’s resolve. If you are seeking rest, upliftment, and encouragement to make a difference in the world, then these inspirational poems are a breath of fresh air.

1. “Harlem” by Langston Hughes

Countless people across the globe today are born into a precarious margin of society. Their futures are uncertain, and concepts such as the “American dream” are merely smoke and mirrors. In his 1951 poem, “Harlem”, Langston Hughes dives into the racial injustices that were seen in the Harlem community in New York City. He poses a question about what happens when collective and personal dreams are suspended under an oppressive system. He goes on to suggest answers to this question, using visceral, sensory language. He finally asks if the deferred dream will eventually “explode”, culminating in unrest or something uncontrolled. While not inspirational in the sense that it inspires positivity, this is one of those poems that cause one to pause and think about better ways to act and alleviate instances of systemic inequality.

2. “If” by Rudyard Kipling

“If”, by Rudyard Kipling, is one of the most well-known inspirational poems and has been used often in modern popular culture. The poem lists a set of prerequisites for being a “Man”, but in a modern context, it is advice on how to live meaningfully as a human being without succumbing to defeat. This piece can be considered a didactic poem, as it instructs the reader about morals as well as successful, virtuous living. The word “If” is also repeated several times throughout the poem, moving the poem along to its rewarding conclusion, and letting the reader know they continually have a choice in how they behave in life.

3. “Tell Your Story” by Lebogang Mashile

Lebogang Mashile has been a brave beacon for South Africa’s post-apartheid generation. Her poems are not only inspirational but take an honest look at what it means to take pride in one’s ethnic and cultural identity, as well as one’s past. A social activist at heart, we see this artist’s relevance today in her poem, “Tell Your Story”. The poem is affirming that the reader has lived through maltreatment at the hands of abusive people or systems. The line, “None can eliminate your pain”, in the second stanza acknowledges suffering and that nobody can erase it. We then see the poem transfigure into a kind of chant or anthem, calling the reader to express their pain. Telling one’s story, the poet suggests, will nourish, sustain, claim, feed, heal, and release one from a reality being destroyed by one’s past.

4. “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman

On the 6th of January 2021, the world turned its gaze to 22-year-old Amanda Gorman. She became the youngest inaugural poet in US history when she performed “The Hill We Climb” at the 46th President’s swearing-in ceremony. Inspirational poems are often performed at inaugurations, but Gorman’s unapologetic poise and grit inspired young people, especially women and girls of colour, across the globe. Her poem takes a look at the process of unifying a nation and the challenges of progress, and asks the question: “…where can we find light in this never-ending shade?”. Gorman ends her piece triumphantly, announcing that light is found when we are brave enough to become it ourselves.

Inspirational poems take many forms – they may shock and disturb us into taking action, pose important questions that lead us to introspection, or motivate us to do better. If you are seeking inspirational poems by local writers, have a look at our poem library here. Not do we have entries across all 11 official languages, but these poems are about themes, such as birth, death, love, and hope.

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