Artist Statement

Marjan Naderi, the 2020 D.C. Youth Poet Laureate, is an Afghan-American writer and educator based in Washington, D.C. As a 6-time Poetry Grand Slam Champion, Naderi has been featured on NowThis News, The Washington Post, NPR, The United Nation’s Girl Up Campaign, NBC News, Amazon Prime, The Kennedy Center, D.C. United, Nike, The U.S. Institute of Peace, and more. Her writing has been recognized by The Adroit Journal, Brave New Voices, The Split This Rock Database, and The National YoungArts Foundation where she was nominated for the 2020 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts Award. 

As an educator, Naderi has facilitated writing workshops across the nation. She's taught Quranic Studies at The Afghan Academy and founded the Washington International Academy Library. She's currently working with international non-profits to build schools and libraries in Afghanistan. Her work is featured in curricula including Fairfax County Public Schools and L.M.S. Voice.

Naderi, 18, now attends The University of Virginia. Her chapbook, Bloodline, is available online at


Artist Statement

As artists, we disconnect and dismantle ourselves from the systems that may benefit us for the sake of becoming a shadow. In this darkness, we are built to fight and find the light. In this darkness; however lonely it may be, we capture different realms of humanity, unknowing of its purpose. In the confrontation of grief, only then, we recognize the last resort to finding a beacon of truth, of hope, is creation. 

When writing found me, I was engulfed by grey matter. In this vessel of existence, I’ve found myself to be an Afghan-American. A woman. The daughter of refugees. A Muslim. Bipolar. These are the few I can give a name to. These diverse identities, often the target of American hate crimes, are far too heavy for one person to bear. Where can this trauma go without harm? In seeking, I found paper. A home that holds secrets and no judgment. In writing, I’ve learned that breath exists in the empty space. Through emptiness and our natural state of being, light is found and offers an outlet for pain to dissolve. 

For me, this radical approach to healing is through voice and choosing life. Every human is born with the shackles of sin that have manifested before us. We can only break from the cycle of illusion and agony through the light one offers the world, through the light of one’s art. My writing serves my healing, but if one is to see my writing and recognize themself, then, by all means, the string of radical fighting and triumph is theirs. 

“Swearing by time, man is born in loss and emptiness. Except those who believe, proceed with the intention of truth, have dedicated their lives to the truth, and offered patience.”

- Quran 103, Surah Asr.