Why he's interesting: As one of only five teens selected to be a part of the 2015 National Student Poets Program, the Cleveland School of the Arts junior earned the country's most prestigious honor for young poets by challenging readers to confront racial issues and tensions head-on within his work. Through the program, he'll spend the year leading workshops and readings at libraries, museums and schools to encourage other emerging writers to use the power of their words.
lasting legacy: After the heartbreaking loss of his godmother when Hardges was 9, he found an outlet to channel his grief when he took his first writing course the next year. "All my writing at that point was about her. Seeing how much it helped to express myself through writing is what really got me hooked."
City Speak: Hardges cites Cleveland in many of his poems — the good, the bad and the ugly. "The way I build and take from Cleveland is by accepting it. A lot of people don't accept that their city might be one of the most violent cities in the country or one of the most creative in the country, so I just accept the good and bad of my city and try to give back."
Neighborhood Watch: His poem "Mr. Superior" was recently selected to be part of the Best Teen Writing of 2015 anthology. When penning the metaphor for the East 105th Street and Superior Avenue neighborhood, he took inspiration from what he knew about the damage caused to the area by the Glenville riots and what he saw when walking through the city. "I turned it into a poem about a drunk man telling stories about things that he's witnessed. What I wanted people to get from that piece is that things aren't always what they seem."
Teacher and Student: Hardges credits Cleveland School of the Arts instructor Daniel Gray-Kontar for shaping him into the writer he is today. "Working with Daniel is like working with a mirror. We're always on the same page, we're always thinking alike. And everything that I write, we always find somewhere to connect on it and work from there."
Beat Maker: When he's not penning poetry, he's in the studio recording. Although he's influenced by current stars such as Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino, he'll always have a place for Nas. "In 'I Gave You Power,' the way he tells the story in that song gets me every time."