Teen Sequins 2020, Day 5: Heather Laurel Jensen, age 18

 Elegy Apologizing in Hindsight
  

 I hear:  July will bring the second coming,
               monsoon season, and a stock market crash. 
               Each light on the water tower will blink
               and then strobe. A cougar will sleep 
               under my trampoline for weeks. Dogs 
               will break into every antique shop and
              devour fine china. From there the moon will roll 
              across a cliff and crush the nearest mobile home.
  
 Today they are dredging my best friend’s body from the lake.
 She is wrapped in pink tarp and identifiable
 by her ponytail. The edges of each day are ochre and 
 pulling up at the corners like linoleum. Occasionally 
 when I take a shower, there is vomit already 
 in the bathtub. I should not be here,
  
 not like this. Three weeks ago we were kneeling
 at the gulf of a psych ward, with my hands 
 pressing a Ziploc to her nose and mouth in lieu
 of a paper bag. In hindsight,
             
             I am not even 
             an effective attempt at
             a solution. A threat is
             still a threat when
             you pretend it’s benign.
             Sorrow is still sorrow
             with my headphones in. Her grief
             was still grief when I 
             avoided it. In the future,
             I hope to be unafraid
  
 of asking questions. Her parents will join
 a nunnery. The lake will drain
 through a metal slit in the earth. Her old
 things will appear on every subway 
 in the world. In hindsight, I will look for
 the cliff crumbs in the cuffs of her jeans. In
 hindsight, I will call the hospital and tell them 
 her name. 



Heather Laurel Jensen is a freshman at the University of Arizona. She served as National Student Poet of the Southwest in 2018 and is currently co-president of Creative Youth of Arizona, an organization that administers the Phoenix Youth Poet Laureate program and develops creative opportunities for young Arizonans. Her poetry, short stories, and photography have been published by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, diode poetry journal, and the Live Poets Society of New Jersey, among others.

Teen Sequins 2020, Day 1: Sarah Fathima Mohammed, Age 14

Wounded Body 
  
When I am ten, my grandmother squeezes my flabby
 stomach with small, raisined hands. This is the closest 
  
 we have been. I am taught a woman should 
 keep her distance before marriage, save touch 
  
 like thirst and wait for a man’s mouth to drink 
 from. In the communal harvest shed behind 
  
 the village huts, my grandmother 
 wraps black fabric over my white kurti. 
  
 It billows at my waist like a breath. 
 Spreads over my ­­­chest as hands gasping 
  
 open, white petals. Burka stretching over
 my lips as another mouth. This is a body
  
 close enough to kiss. I have never felt anything 
 more human. I imagine that my grandmother birthed 
  
 this burka from her own stomach—fabric dousing her womb
 in darkness, coming out as flesh. Shaped like a fist. 
  
 In Tamil, wound and body share the same word. 
 Meaning that the body is only another way 
  
 to hurt. Meaning that I am a scab that is not capable
 of healing. Swollen thighs. Mouth purple 
  
 at the edges. I confess: I want this burka 
 to swallow me like a river. Drench me
  
 in salve until I’m sputtering. Bandage 
 this wound. If this burka is another body, 
  
 it is a better one. My grandmother whispers 
 that my body is too sacred to remove the burka. 
  
 I mistake the word sacred for scared. My body is not 
 the altar, only the meat that has been placed on it, sacrificed
  
 in all the wrong ways. I will drape this fabric
 over me like a corpse, hide inside it as a remedy. 
 ­­ 

Sarah Fathima Mohammed is a brown, Muslim-American writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work appears or is forthcoming in DIALOGIST,  Diode, Apprentice Writer, and elsewhere. She has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the Poetry Society of the UK, and the National Poetry Quarterly’s Editors’ Choice Prize, among others. When she is not writing, she serves as managing editor for The Aurora Review and genre editor for Polyphony Lit.  

Transmissions from a Teen Sequin: Daniel Blokh, feat. 2015, at age 14

I admit – I miss the days of Teen Sequins. I was in junior high at a magnet art school, but as much fun as I had writing short stories to share with my classmates, my true, secret passion was for poetry. At that age I was privately discovering the possibilities of unrhymed poetry for the first time, constantly both dazzled and bewildered by the strangeness of the work I ran into on The Poetry Foundation. The only way I knew how to deal with this feeling of fervent engagement was to write my own poems. I would read, be stricken with an idea, and run with it – not because I wanted recognition or publication or a book deal, but out of necessity. I didn’t know how else to deal with my excitement about words.

I submitted to Teen Sequins at my friend Katy Hargett’s suggestion, expecting no result. When I found out that my work would be featured, I honestly didn’t know quite what that meant. I Googled my judges and read their work, and then I read the work of my fellow winners, and then I read the other poems published in Gigantic Sequins. I found new poets to admire — not the famous and established PoetryFoundation.org authors, not the “top ten experimental poets” search results, not the 8th grade English class curriculum classics, but fresh voices like mine finding their own ideas and running wild with them. The recognition Gigantic Sequins exposed me to was delightfully validating, but the way it influenced me most was by exposing me to all the presses, zines, chapbooks, and poets I’m still exploring. 

When I say I miss Teen Sequins, I mean I miss that leap. I miss the realization that I’m not alone, like walking around a beautiful but overgrown path all alone and suddenly emerging from the brush to encounter a huge crowd of friendly travelers walking the same road, inviting me to join them. I miss that sudden understanding that my work was wanted, that poetry was wanted. When I realized that, I found my notebook, bought a new pen, and I wrote and wrote for years. 

 


 

  • Daniel Blokh is an 18-year-old American-Jewish writer with Russian immigrant parents, currently attending Yale University. He was one of the 5 National Student Poets for 2018, representing the Southeast region. He is the author of the memoir In Migration (BAM! Publishing 2016), the chapbook Grimmening (forthcoming from Diode Editions), and the chapbook Holding Myself Hostage In The Kitchen (Lit City Press 2017). His work has won 1st in the Princeton High School Poetry Competition and has appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Adroit Journal, Cosmonauts Avenue, Permafrost, Blueshift, Cleaver, Gigantic Sequins, and more. He’s bad at taking naps, which sucks, because he really needs a nap right now.

Submissions OPEN for TEEN SEQUINS 2020!

DRUMROLL PLEASE! Teen Sequins is back from hiatus and OPEN for submissions!

Since our initial feature in 2015, Teen Sequins has received over 500 poems submitted by teenagers across the globe, as far-reaching as India, Singapore, and New Zealand! Open to writers between ages 14 through 18, Teen Sequins will feature one poet per day in each age category during a week in September, with ALL submitting writers receiving honorable mention! Participation in Teen Sequins is a distinction that any teen could happily include in a college or summer program application as evidence of ambition, independence, and unique talent.

If you are a teenager between 14 – 18, we’re looking for your poetry!

And to those of you over 18, whether you’re student, a teacher, a parent, a pal, or all of the above, please share this submission call with the teens in your life!

Check out our previous features, see our FAQ for questions, and submit!

A shiny pause and a birthday special

You may have noticed that we’ve not opened our usually-annual Teen Sequins feature. Never fear — this celebratory project is far from finished! Our editors are simply taking a breather.

In the meantime, enjoy our current issue, We are 10 this year (!!!) and to celebrate our tenth birthday, take 10% off any order in our shop this week! Help keep us around for another ten years by subscribing or ordering an issue – the offer ENDS Monday 4/22 at 10:10am CT. The code is TENMORE4GS

You can also peruse our past Teen Sequins features here. Teens, we look forward to reading your work in 2020 !

TEEN SEQUINS 2018! Day 6: “CURE” by Annabelle Crowe, AGE 19

To me this poem reads as one of resilience. “Make me a boulder striped with tide stains/on the salt marsh.” Striped but stable within. “Make me a coastline/of shattered language.” A coastline nonetheless, revised lexicon. And those last four lines. What is the cure? Mercy or resilience? What survives? “[An] idea of the sea.” Make me. Unknown only to others. Infinite. – Robert Auld

Cure

Have mercy on me, gods
of transformation.

Make me a boulder striped with tide stains
on the salt marsh.

Make me a pennant, regardant
a lung, fluttering

itch, a tough flank stretched
between birch sticks.

Make me a coastline
of shattered language.

/

I want to age evenly.
You can carve me out

through hard winters,
you can bend my ribs back

like a two-page spread.
Have mercy.

I’m no bigger than
your fingertip. I’ve sent my name

winging away. Just bones now
and an idea of the sea.

Annabelle Crowe is a rising sophomore at Rice University and hopes to double major in English and the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Her poetry has been published in Asheville Poetry Review, The Adroit Journal, and diode poetry journal and has been recognized by the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. She is the poetry editor of R2: The Rice Review, her campus lit mag.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Olivia Alger (University of Rochester, Rochester, NY); Alixa Brobbey (Brigham Young University, Provo, UT); Reuben Gelley Newman (Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA); Annabelle Kang (Concordia University, Montreal); Hannah Pandya (Simmons College, Boston, MA); Noel Peng (Princeton University, Princeton, NJ); Simran S. Shaju (Travancore Medical College, Kollam); Sahara Sidi (Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT); Amelia Van Donsel (Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY); Kelsie Ward (Sage College of Albany, Albany, NY); Lisa Zou (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA)

TEEN SEQUINS 2018! Day 5, “Antonia” by Morgan Levine, AGE 18

The first half dozen times I read this poem I was mesmerized by Morgan Levine’s diction. Pink bathrobe, plastic flamingos, moonshine. Elvis, Mary, rosemary oil. “I hold my children/close to me like minutes.” Close like words, prayer, a manifestation of love. “I have prayed,/I have produced.” Having read the poem a dozen more times, I am further entranced by the “I” of “Antonia,” a voice reflecting the persistence required to continue living, the voice of someone in love with family and legacy, and the symbol of Mary, both prayer and a “chipped porcelain platter of sky.” -Robert Auld

 

Antonia

for my great-grandmother

 

…Mary’s chief glory is in her nothingness, in the fact of being the “Handmaid of the Lord,” as one who in becoming the Mother of God acted simply in loving submission to His command, in the pure obedience of faith. – Thomas Merton

 

 

 

Amen I have braved another

locust night to stand sentry

in my pink bathrobe among

the plastic flamingos.

I have come for my evening

visit, for my single sip

of moonshine.

 

I hold my Elvis mug

& snip a gardenia

for you.  Cream petals

like pages I turn for you,

Mary, name of my mother,

sweet rosemary oil on my

temples & wrists.  I once

had a name that tangled

on the tongue when spoken

in the Texas heat, sinful

& sweet as a man named

George.  O Mary, he called me

Toney.  & he married me.

 

Claudia & Carol,

David & Daryl,

I have prayed,

I have produced.

 

If a woman is a window

through which immaculate light

can shine, then you, Mary,

are so glorious in your thinness.

I paste your prayer on my bathroom

mirror.  I throw my old name

into the sky like a lost tooth &

I walk in this house

with a hundred clocks

& a dozen calendars

& I hold my children

close to me like minutes.

 

When the clouds allow,

I stand here &

gaze at the moon.

If there are two things

I will give my children,

it is you,

Mary,

prayer I lay over their beds like fine lace,

& you again,

Mary,

chipped porcelain platter of sky.

 

 

Morgan Levine is a multimedia poet currently studying at Columbia University in New York City.  Her works have been published both in print and online, and she is a three-time finalist for Houston Youth Poet Laureate.

 
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Miranda Sun (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Wilmett, IL); Alexis Noga (Denison University, Granville, OH); Jackson Neal (University of Houston, Houston, TX);  Lily Zhou, Enshia Li, Maya Salameh (Stanford University, Stanford, CA); Ben Togut (Columbia Preparatory School, New York, NY); Peyton Toups (Jesuit HS of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA); Andrew Tye (Princeton University, Princeton, NJ); Quinn Lui (University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada); Jessica Meng (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA) Isabel Garcia (Bennington College, Bennington, VT); Zack Tambone (Passaic Valley HS, Little Falls, NJ); Grace Clifford (Columbia University, New York, NY); Katrina Rojas ( UMass Amherst, Amherst, MA); Harper West (Bentonville HS, Bentonville, AR); Tom Bosworth (Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH); Kate I. Foley (Homeschool, Lebanon, PA); CG Aquingel Plabrica (Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion – Mandaue, Cebu, Philippines); Rebecca Northup (University of California, Santa Cruz, CA); Amery Segovia (Alamo Heights HS, San Antonio, TX)

TEEN SEQUINS 2018! Day 4: VIDHIMA SHETTY, AGE 17, “What Did Me In”

When first reading Vidhima Shetty’s poem, I misread “the world is something more // to clench my fists around” as “the world is more than something // to clench my fists around.” Perhaps I misread Shetty’s line because what the poem does with the world is honor and fight, embrace and reject. The poem is a glimpse of young struggle at its finest, its desire to “transcend in all the wrong places.” And I remember that, the moment of being 17, feeling simultaneously old and young, being able to feel the world splitting, things that felt like truth becoming visible then drifting away again. But when I was 17, I couldn’t say it like Shetty does, and she does it, (as her poem sings) “waking and spring-fisted.”  – Sophie Klahr

 

What Did Me In

 

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Vidhima Shetty is a rising senior from the Bay Area in California. Her poetry has been recognized by Scholastic Art & Writing and Hollins University, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Red Queen Literary Magazine, Moledro Magazine, and Eloquence, among others. When she is not writing poetry, she is watching anime and drinking milk tea.

 
HONORABLE MENTIONS: TiKa Wallace (George Mason HS, Falls Church, VA); Caroline Grand-Clement (Cité Scolaire Internationale, Lyon, France); Davis Mathis (Pace Academy, Atlanta, GA); Allison Lin (Syosset HS, Syosset, NY); Jojan (Jay) Padua (Galileo Academy of Science and Technology, San Francisco, CA); Bronwen Brenner (Baruch College Campus HS, New York, NY); Katie Hurwitz (Walpole HS, Walpole, MA); Vivian Parkin DeRosa (Communications HS, Ocean Township, NJ); Jessica Lao (Westminster Schools, Atlanta, GA); Jennifer Jantzen (Concord HS, Concord, MA); Breanna Trigona (West Boca Raton Community HS, Boca Raton, FL); Samia Menon (Hawken School, Cleveland, OH); Haemaru Chung (Trinity School, New York, NY); Claire Parsons (Hellgate HS, Missoula, MT); Isabelle Edgar (Falmouth HS, Falmouth, MA); Madina Malahayati Chumaera (Global Jaya School, Greater Jakarta, Indonesia); Zoe Kramer (Nova Classical Academy, St.Paul, MN); Quinn Filler (Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, SC); Carolyn Stein (New Roads School, Los Angeles, CA); Grace Lytle (Kinder HS for the Performing and Visual Arts, Houston, TX); Sophie Parsa (Germantown HS Jackson, MI); Eliza Browning (Wheaton College, Norton, MA); Aidan Aragon (Wausaukee HS, Wausaukee, WI); Emily Chen (Williams College, Williamstown, MA); Josh Schlachter (Orange County School of the Arts, Santa Ana, CA); Dana Chiueh (International Bilingual School, Hsinchu City, Taiwan); Laura Liu (Conestoga HS, Wayne, PA); Anna Butcher (Alabama School of Fine Arts, Birmingham, AL); Carly Civello (Lancaster Country Day School, Lancaster, PA); Sarah M. Zhou (Naperville North HS, Naperville, IL); Anna Shahbazyan (Marblehead HS, Marblehead, MA), Bessie Huang (Eleanor Roosevelt HS, Greenbelt, MD); Vanessa Tsao (Taipei American School, Taipei, Taiwan); Keira DiGaetano (Richard Montgomery HS, Rockville, MD); Susan Li (Deerfield Academy, Deerfield, MA); Worlanyo Mensah (Mount Olive HS, Mount Olive, NJ); Evan Hochstein (Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Austin, TX); Olivia Hu (Port Moody Secondary School, Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada); Corrine Barker (Hackettstown HS, Hackettstown, NJ); Veronica Palacios, Juliana Schlaen, Emily Garroway, Hadassah Amani, (Miami Arts Charter, Miami, FL); Hanah Shields, Kendall Hunt, Kate Soupiset (Alamo Heights HS, San Antonio, TX)