I began writing poetry by accident, really. Like most good things in my life I stumbled upon it through sheer circumstance rather than any virtue. I was 24, living in Chicago, working one of several unpaid internships, and had just left a job working for an attorney to go back to school for the one thing I knew I loved for sure: literature. I had to take a creative writing elective and so I opted for a poetry workshop. One day my teacher,* a poet himself who I still keep in touch with, took me aside and gave me the classic good news, bad news speech that perhaps many poets have heard. Something like: you have a gift and should probably do this for the rest of your life – if you are prepared for the perpetual poverty, instability, and insecurity that often accompanies this avocation.
I was elated. I felt seen. I’ve never looked back.
It was a life-changing moment for me and I’ve felt forever indebted to that teacher. I’ve long felt that in that moment, believing in me, he did more for me than he’ll ever understand. Now, having spent a few years in the world of poetry – and the world of the world – I think that maybe I also gave him something. Some hope. Some small respite from the monotony of rejection and dejection that academic life (and life in general) can engender in us.
Now, years later, I still stay in close contact with that teacher. I had another teacher,* another mentor of sorts, who would always say that poetry is a lifelong apprenticeship. A devotion to the state of being a student, to remaining teachable at all times. I agree whole-heartedly and thus see the great responsibility held by both the teacher and the student, the apprentice and the veteran. These moments, wherein we look each other in the eye and say I see you, keep going make the road much easier to travel.
I don’t know that I would consider myself a ‘veteran’ of much of anything, least of all poetry. But it is something I’ve worked tirelessly at for years, something I’ve certainly had enough experience with to return the favor that teacher did for me a long time ago by doing the same, by encouraging young writers to continue one.
In signing on to help Gigantic Sequins with the TEEN SEQUINS feature, that is what I hope we can accomplish: to help younger writers feel seen, and in turn to spark some hope in ourselves. I was already sold on the idea of a feature focused solely on teen writers, in order to spotlight some necessary and otherwise underrepresented voices in the poetic dialogue, but when I began to read the past features I was blown away by the level of talent. I hope that what we do here at TEEN SEQUINS can support the work of these young poets to grow ever brighter.
* My teachers mentioned, in order, are the poets Chris Green and Amaud Johnson. I recommend starting with these poems, and then buying their books.
‘My Brother Buries His Dog’ by Chris Green
‘Names We Sing in Sleep & Anger’ by Amaud Johnson