TEEN SEQUINS 2016: BRAD TRUMPFHELLER, AGE 19

Welcome to day six of Teen Sequins 2016! Today’s poem is “Scene from a Western” by Brad Trumpfheller.

 

“Landscape is character,” wrote Henry James, and perhaps nowhere is this remark more visibly true than in the traditional genre of Western films, where landscape saturates and governs every character’s action. In Brad Trumpfheller’s “Scene from a Western,” a family is fused with the mythical Western landscape. In this poem an absent father’s palms are plains, his eyes “like the rolling yucca trees,” and the land itself gives a ragged cough “which the wind would then fashion / into the shape of my mother.”  A newborn foal drags itself down the steps of a family home, no—Trumpfheller, the actor, the director, the author, draws a newborn foal down the steps of a family home, “..and this is how / the audience knows my father….” This a poem of clear pulse, astute attention, and wide horizons, swallowing a rider in the sunset. -Sophie Klahr

 

SCENE FROM A WESTERN

 

Below the canopy of day, a foal

drags itself down the stairs

 

of my childhood home, threadbare

mane slick with blood. & this is how

 

the audience knows my father

is never home for any of my birthdays.

 

I will only see him when the night swallows

the sun or something needs

 

to be fixed. & after my mother came home

from the hospital, the storm

 

door had come off one of its hinges. O God –

his hands like flat & empty plains, his eyes

 

like the rolling yucca trees. Now do you see

how the sandstorm crawled its way across

 

the desert? A dead landscape mustering up

some slow seize, some cough of dirt & bone

 

which the wind would then fashion

into the shape of my mother: bed-ridden

 

for days, thighs reddened

into clay. But there is something honest

 

about the sand. How it shocked the windows

with rattling. How the house was buried

 

& unburied while my mother’s pillows etched

epitaphs into themselves.

 

Before the audience leaves the theater,

or before my father can disappear

 

again – the scene ends with the foal, collapsed

in the desert, its body curled into the shape

of an empty crib.  

 

Brad Trumpfheller is a student at Emerson College, studying literature & musicology. He was raised in the south, but spent time all over the United States. His writing has appeared in / will appear in the Nashville Review, Lambda Literary, Red Paint Hill, and elsewhere. He reads poetry for Winter Tangerine and handles business development for The Adroit Journal. In his free time, he writes about music.

 

Honorable mentions: Ariella Carmell (University of Chicago, Chicago, IL), Deepali Gupta (DY Patil University, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India), Samantha McLaughlin (Denison University, Granville, OH), Eloise Sims (University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand), Em Sutliff (Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, OH), Oriana Tang (Yale University, Livingston, NJ), Eli Winter (University of Chicago, Chicago, IL)

TEEN SEQUINS 2016: TALIA FLORES, AGE 18

Welcome to day five of Teen Sequins 2016! Today’s poem is “& soil” by Talia Flores.

 

The opening ampersand of “& soil” signals right away to the reader that this will be an intimate poem, a particular coiled fertility. Thalia Flores’ poem is serpentine and rich with mystic undergrowth, a poem to be whispered. With short lines flayed by slashes, Flores’ hand visibly crafts a directive for the reader: where a sharp inhalation is required. In “& soil,” where “blood / seeps tulips,” plant life not only inhabits but is knit into the essence of a human body. Flores’ surreal poem is a fecund field of reversals, busy with the music of new life. — Sophie Klahr

 

& soil

 

in the bulb of a wet cheek /
a plant sprouts. illuminated
prism / in the spit of caves.
here grows / the heart of a
flower, / a black hole or /
reverse birth. / out of cracked
blood / seeps tulips
freshened stems / caught in
vermilion; / a skin bark and
muscled green. / she combs
her hair to turn it into moss. /
her legs / are those fallen logs
inverted, earthy sestinas /
bark muscled green.

 

Talia Flores is from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and graduated from Eden Prairie High School in 2016. She is the recipient of the 2015 Texas Book Festival Fiction Prize and has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Her work appears or is forthcoming in National Poetry Quarterly, Words Dance, Souvenir Lit Journal, Glass Kite Anthology, and more. She was a mentee in The Adroit Journal’s Mentorship Program, and she works as a reader for Polyphony H.S. and as an editorial intern for The Blueshift Journal. She will be attending Stanford University in the fall.

Honorable mentions: Mernine Ameris (George Mason University, Fairfax, VA), Lia Bernhard (Lewis & Clark College, Portland, OR), Lauren Gay (Jefferson Community College, Watertown, NY), Emmi Mack (Northside College Prep High School, Chicago, IL (graduate)/ (incoming) Columbia University, New York City, NY), Caroline Tsai (Canterbury High School, Ft.Wayne, IN (graduate)/(incoming) Harvard University, Cambridge, MA)

TEEN SEQUINS 2016: MARGARET ZHANG, AGE 17

Welcome to day four of Teen Sequins 2016! Today’s poem is “Straw Theory” by Margaret Zhang.

Margaret Zhang’s poem is a series of tricks, “a trick of the eye”, “a trick of the brain”, leading to a turn no less surprising for its simultaneous shock and familiarity. Spoken in a voice both distanced from the experience and swept up in memory, “me the magic trick over and over” casts a spell on the reader as Ruby cast on the speaker, as the speaker cast on themselves, enamored, innocent. “How two could be coiled/so tightly and suddenly/have nothing.” Zooming out and back in (from “two” to “we”), Zhang’s specificity and proximity are where the poem makes impact, and proves her theory. -Robby Auld
 

STRAW THEORY

 

Ruby first taught me to untangle
stirrers of showy coffee shops
by tangling them: to perforate the paper coats
with our teeth until the holes pooled together, crumpled
off like trousers, then to interlace them in fingers until
they were no longer wound. She showed
me the magic trick over and over
until I memorized how she laid the straws
across each other like crucifixion, wound
the stem of the cross over the arm, choked the neck
with the right limb, bent the structure like a bird
opening its wings towards
each other. It was a trick of the eye:
snap snap, knot gone before we could see
it. Watching her twist straws like watching
god devise glow
from thunderclap. Any latch, when bolted
too tightly, too cautiously, she taught me, spun
the other way without notice. How two could be coiled
so tightly and suddenly
have nothing. That night we pretended
we were straws and locked
so firmly we receded from each other’s
arms. It was a trick of the brain:
snap snap, knot gone before
I could see it.

 

Margaret Zhang is a senior at Castilleja School (Palo Alto, CA), where she appreciates memes and serves as the Editor-in-Chief/Co-Founder of Glass Kite Anthology. She has attended writing workshops at the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop, among others. Read her other work in Words Dance, Cadaverine, the Foyle Young Poets Anthology, YARN, and other journals.

Honorable mentions: Shira Abramovich (Newton South High School, Newton, MA (graduate) / (incoming) Brown University, Providence, RI), Hetty Bai (University of Missouri, Kansas City, MO), Ashley Cheak (Stivers School for the Arts, Dayton, OH), Steven Chung (Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, CA), Anabelle Crowe (homeschooler, Asheville, NC), Sophie Evans (Lusher Charter School, New Orleans, LA), Gus Gonzalez (Albert Einstein High School, Silver Spring, MD), Hannah Graf (Middleton, MA), Alex Greenberg (Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York, NY), Allison Huang (The Lawrenceville School, Princeton, NJ), Ziqi Lei (The Pennington School, Pennington, NJ), Annalise Lozier (Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, MI), Erin Jin Mei O’Malley (York, PA), Keith Prescott (Falmouth High School, Falmouth, ME), Jean Rivera (Greenburgh Graham, Hastings-On-Hudson, NY), Nicole Seah (United World College of South East Asia, Singapore), Elizabeth Seri (Harvard-Westlake School, Los Angeles, CA), Emily Yin (Boxborough Regional High School, Acton, MA), Lisa Zou (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA)

TEEN SEQUINS 2016: BEN READ, AGE 16

Welcome to day three of Teen Sequins 2016! Today’s poem is “Barium” by Ben Read.

 

In Ben Read’s “Barium,” the good-bad joke is about death, and laughter is followed by crocus-lined graves in “necklaces of purple and blue” and by a grave turn, as the speaker notes that “Barium is the element / that doctors feed you to see your organs.” Read’s syntax ties the pieces of the narrative together, the poem emerging with each recurring image, Read forming his own necklace. “It is spring. I imagine the flowers / taste like morning, and I remember”–the poem emerging from this remembering too, because what else can be done with the past? Write it down or bury it. — Robby Auld 

 

BARIUM

 

In chemistry class, we told bad jokes and laughed.
What do you do with dead elements? You barium.
The crocuses in the front yard line the graves—
necklaces of purple and blue. Barium is the element
that doctors feed you to see your organs. Swallow,
and show them your body. For discovery.
It is spring. I imagine the flowers
taste like morning, and I remember
the morning I learned the murmur of a creek,
how it sounds like secrets. You were there; you told me
about vulnerability. I looked at you. I am always thinking

 
about childhood. The world where we met
looks so small now, built from bricks and windows
that won’t close. I am thinking
of the time we went to the playground,
sat on the blue swings, staring at the seesaw
in silence. We already knew. We were children.
Barium is highly reactive; it doesn’t want to be alone.
It is spring, and I sit on the porch, watching
the birds in the trees. I chart their paths
from branch to branch to telephone
wire. They are drawing. It looks like a skeleton,

 
a face, a body, maybe. Like a barium x-ray.
Who can tell what I used to see before the illusion
disappeared? What I thought I had? What do you do
with old memories? Barium is heavy in your stomach,
in the earth. The crocuses come again every year.
Sometimes I step on them, and sometimes
I stop to pick them, hold them in my palm,
and smell them. I am thinking how easy it is
to forget. How I have to think to remember the sky,
the time we climbed a mountain, running
each switchback, breathless, and each time,
we had to rest. At the top, we looked out
and thought the whole world was ours, and everything
looked enormous, because we were there.

 

Ben Read lives in Spokane, Washington, where he is a junior at Lewis and Clark High School. His work has been recognized by RiverLit, Eunoia Review, and The Adroit Journal, and he was named a 2015 Foyle Young Poet of the Year by the Poetry Society of the United Kingdom. He recently co-founded Ponderosa Literary Journal at his high school. Other than writing, he likes to participate in speech and debate, attend and read at local poetry slams in coffee and burrito shops, and listen to music like the Juno soundtrack. His favorite muse is the river.

 
Honorable mentions: Margot Armbruster (WI), Ella Boyd (Falmouth High School, Falmouth, ME), Emilee Burridge (BASIS Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ), Paul Elaire (Northside High School, Lafayette, LA), Farah Ghafoor (Vincent Massey Secondary School, Windsor, Ontario, Canada), Katie Howell (Bishop Guertin High School, Nashua, NH), Christina Im (Sunset High School, Portland, OR), Elizabeth Johnson (Fike High School, Wilson, NC), Alonna Kilpatrick (Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts, Chattanooga, TN), Sarah Licht (West Boca High School, Boca Raton, FL), Grace Marion (Neshaminy High School, Langhorne, PA), Megan McEvoy, Matteo Moretti (Newark Academy, Livingston, NJ), Abigail Walker (Milton Academy, Milton, MA), Topaz Winters (Singapore American School, Singapore), Alisha Yi (Ed W. Clark High School, Las Vegas, NV)

TEEN SEQUINS 2016: AIDAN FORSTER, AGE 15

Welcome to day two of Teen Sequins 2016! Today’s poem is “Cistern” by Aidan Forster.

The word “cistern,” an underground reservoir, originates from the ancient Greek kiste, meaning “chest.” If the body is a chest, a vessel, then the shadow of inevitably losing that vessel, i.e. the body, permeates Aidan Forster’s poem. Present too in the poem is what we inherit from those we love, how we inherit those people themselves, and in this way, never lose them. “I hold his living self/” says the speaker, “underneath my tongue.” The speaker of “Cistern” learns from their grandfather, romanticizes him, internalizes him, yet fears going on without him. “When the river dries up,” the living self remains, the memory held in place. Its water grows the “great white gourd” from Forster’s neck, from our necks, too.  – Robby Auld

 

CISTERN

 

It is true I drank the river water
my grandfather offered me. Yes, we knelt

before the river’s mouth
and touched our lips to it. It is true

he is still living in his body
like it’s a wooden house. He says

I should hold a gun like an infant
but treat it like an animal. And yes,

we moved from shooting Coke cans
to shooting rocks, then small animals,

then large ones. It is true I once shot
rabbits, deer, watched him peel the flesh

from the glisten of their ribs. I took
nothing from their bodies—not skin, never

bone. And yes, I learn to think of him
as more than he is. It is true. Yes, his body

tried to become less of a body and more
of a cistern. I hold his living self

underneath my tongue. I have heard
his head grows like a great white gourd

from his neck. When the river dries up
I will take all the things I love

and smash them one by one.

 

Aidan Forster is an incoming junior in the creative writing program at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. He is the blog editor of The Adroit Journal and the co-founder/co-managing editor of Fissure. He is the 2016 winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Louise Louis / Emily F. Bourne Student Award, and made the editors’ list for the 2016 Adroit Prizes in poetry. His work appears in or his forthcoming from The Adroit Journal, Assaracus, DIALOGIST, Tinderbox, and Verse, among others.

Honorable mentions: Celora Blair (homeschooler, Kalamazoo, MI), Michael Cheng (Lower Merion High School, Wynnewood, PA), Marlee Day (Belton High School, Belton, TX), Olivia Hu (Port Moody Secondary School, Port Moody, British Columbia), Vivien Huang (Syosset High School, Syosset, NY), Amelia Huchley (The Harker School, San Jose, CA), Clarissa Hyde (Rowland Hall, Salt Lake City, UT), Annarose King (George School, Newton, PA), Vivienne Kraus (Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH), Angie Lopez (Coral Gables Senior High School, Miami, FL), Krzysztof Mendel (St.Euthans, Letterkenny, Co.Donegal, Ireland), Reagan Newton (Kinkaid School, Houston, TX), Maria Sigrid Remme (North London Collegiate School, London, England), Lily Richman (Brentwood School, Los Angeles, CA), Shruti Sahu (Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX), Nathan Shankar (Evanston Township High School, Evanston, IL), Clair Szeptycki (Castilleja School, Palo Alto, CA)

TEEN SEQUINS 2016: CARRIE ZHANG, AGE 14

Welcome to day one of Teen Sequins 2016! Today’s poem is “Home” by Carrie Zhang.

Carrie Zhang’s “Home” is a delicate survey of expanses, stretching both across human history and the width of a wrist. Zhang’s poem refuses stillness or the employment of only one perspective, spinning from the first spark of human love to celestial objects, from a “burial of cartilage” to the first melody in existence. But these records and expressions of expansion are put forth in the service of what Zhang determines is the core of human activity and origin: Home. The poem ends with a cry to home, perhaps up-cast in gratitude or in helplessness. Perhaps in both. -Sophie Klahr

 

HOME

Across the oceans, beyond the mountains the fire
barely burns in the night like a thousand missed holidays
and a thousand untold ancestors who made it possible to be alive
the place where human love first sparked, unrecognizable

The flat plain of your wrist, in the burial of cartilage and gelatin
the lily where man and women laid together, the antheridium
and the castle around them, in a quiet mythologism
of belonging. The remnant of the sun that rises like the moon

in a holocaust of beauty, the smile of children in the forest conjured
like the first melody that entered our existence, past the
cold deserts & dry oceans, the strange meridian of emotions where flies the viceroy,
the home alone hears your cry; this place made me, this place made me.

 

 

Carrie Zhang is an artist with a newfound interest in fashion design. Her favorite recording artist is Janet Jackson and she has recently been highly influenced by Andy Warhol. She still likes to write poetry, and is interested in innovating its form. Her favorite color is lime green. She lives in Green Brook, a small town in NJ, and she goes to Watchung Hills, a big high school in NJ.
Honorable mentions: Eden Donelli (City Honors School, Buffalo, NY), Katie Han (Falmouth High School, Falmouth, ME), Sreesha Ghosh (GEMS Modern Academy, Dubai, UAE), Srishti Ghosh (GEMS Modern Academy, Dubai, UAE), Kate Martellock (Cazenovia High School, Cazenovia, NY), Caroline Sasso (Greenhill School, Dallas, TX), Lauren Stone (Southington High School, Southington, CT), Jocelynn Williams (Oakland Catholic High School, Pittsburgh, PA)

Tomorrow! TEEN SEQUINS 2016: our 2nd Annual Celebration OF Teen Poets

A note from Robby Auld and Sophie Klahr, co-curators of Teen Sequins: 

Tomorrow kicks off our second annual Teen Sequins feature, and it makes our hearts swell to once again have the privilege of presenting six talented teen writers on behalf of Gigantic Sequins: Carrie Zhang (14), Aidan Forster (15), Ben Read (16), Margaret Zhang (17), Thalia Flores (18), and Brad Trumpfheller (19). 

We created Teen Sequins last year on faith alone, with the certainty that all over the world, teenage poets were creating astonishing work that deserved to be lifted on a celebratory platform. If you read the 2015 selections by Daniel Blokh, Odelia Fried, Kathryn Hargett, Jordan Cutler-Tietjen, Michal Leibowitz, and Savannah Hampton, you’ll see that our conviction about the quality of teenage poetry rang true. This year, our conviction and our discovery has been no different; we’ve once again had a ridiculously difficult time choosing just one poet to feature as a representative in each category of ages 14-19. Poems came to us from all over the United States and Canada, as well as from India, Ireland, Singapore, England, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates. Each day this week, you’ll see not only a poem by a featured poet, but also the names of all the writers who sent their work to us, for they are all worthy of attention and honorable mention.  

We see young voices slowly being given more and more opportunities in literary communities, but we still don’t see enough of it. We insist on inclusion! We insist on celebration! We applaud all who sent their work to us. Keep reading, keep writing, submit again. We can’t wait to see what you’ll come up with next.

We’ll say it again, as our second annual saying: these teen writers are not only our students, but our teachers and our future. We hope you’ll love the poems of Teen Sequins 2016 as much as we do.