By Jeff Todd

(CBS4) – Kiya Cockrell thought she was headed to Washington D.C. to represent Colorado in the national Poetry Out Loud competition when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Now she’s had to graduate virtually and watch nationwide protests grow, all the while keeping her poetry front of mind.

(credit: Poetry Out Loud)

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“Art is something people create and bring other people together because everyone knows they’re feeling this or going through a certain situation. And that’s why poetry has always been so close to me. I feel like I can express something and get someone to understand,” said Cockrell who graduated from Fountain Valley School earlier this year.

Cockrell went home and unfortunately contracted COVID-19. During her recovery, the nation awoke to something she’s written poems about: social injustice and racism.

“I’m a very vocal person so I definitely have been writing a lot. Even looking back to some poems I’ve done a few years ago referencing what’s going on in this current event that we’re living through,” Cockrell said. “Poetry is just constantly expressing yourself and finding what resonates with you.”

(credit: Poetry Out Loud)

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To win the Colorado Poetry Out Loud competition, one poem had to be from before the 20th century. Cockrell chose “Grief” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. A nearly 200-year-old poem that still resonates with the current climate.

“Elizabeth Barrett Browning is saying, that true grief is when you feel kind of stagnant. Instead of you constantly crying out, you become this statue and your heart just feels like you can’t take it anymore. And I think a lot of people are going through that right now in this situation of coronavirus and the social injustice we’re facing,” Cockrell said. “There are some people that feel helpless. There are some people completely overwhelmed, and they can’t move and that nothing their doing is helping. Which is that feeling she was saying. Your heart is just deserted and you’re this statue that just can’t move.”

(credit: CBS)

As she begins college in the fall, Cockrell knows the world will be different post-pandemic and after this social justice movement.

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“You see every single state coming together to protest and show unity which is something that you want to see in the community. The number one thing that comes to me is that there is hope. We are advancing in some way,” she said.

Jeff Todd