TEEN SEQUINS 2017, Day 1: “Sensitivity ” by Bella Komisarjevsky, AGE 13

Bella Komisarjevsky’s poem begins and ends with the same line, which echoes in a multitude of ways. At once self-deprecating, gloating, and knowing, Komisarjevsky’s “Sensitivity” is stronger for it, and more complex. “Honey drips from my mouth/and leaves a taste on everyone’s/tongue except yours(,)” but this poem has stuck in my mind since the first read. Komisarjevsky’s voice is one to follow. — Robby Auld




I must be so tiring.
Our tears mix in
a rain gutter kind of way
and each time I am reminded
that you and I are indescribably
different and how you’ll
never be so invested in me
as I am, you.
Honey drips from my mouth
and leaves a taste on everyone’s

tongue except yours
and now I’ve never wanted
you to like honey more.
I must be so tiring.


Bella Komisarjevsky is a published writer in 7th grade at Miami Arts Charter. She writes for fun and for school, and it is something she’s planning to pursue in the future.

Honorable mentions: Zora Brobbey (Ghana International School, Accra); Briana Gonzalez (Miami Arts Charter, Miami, FL); Bella Koschalk (Herbert Hoover Middle School, Potomac, MD); Jenny Wu (Lawson Middle School, Cupertino, CA)



A mouth full of honey, the voice of a prisoner; fish and fortune; foxtails and ghost mothers; marred light and boyhood—theses are glimpses of the outstanding poems we’re delighted to present in this year’s Teen Sequins feature.

2017 marks the third year of our celebration designed to honor teenage poets, and as usual, we could not be more grateful for the opportunity to read submissions from each and every inventive and brave young writer who has decided to trust us with their work. By presenting the work of teen writers with the platform of an internationally distributed print journal like Gigantic Sequins, we are singing from the rooftops that no matter your age or your experience, the literary world is yours.

This year, 126 teenage writers made our job very hard, which, as we’ve said in years past, is what every literary editor hopes for—to receive so much excellent work that it is difficult to choose just a few poems to present to the public. Our 2017 featured poets are Bella Komisarjevsky (13), Sarah Feng (14), Emily Tian (15), Jacqueline He (16), Sabine Holzman (17), Lucie Richter-Mahr (18), and Juniper Cruz (19). Each of these writers embrace and utilize language in a way that is uniquely compelling, thoughtful, and memorable. Engaging nature, mystery, identity, family and mythology, these poems truly shine. We hope that you will enjoy this week-long feature, as each day we present a new writer flinging open the windows of their imagination.

Happy reading, and happy writing.


Signing off, with gratitude,

Sophie Klahr and Robby Auld

Teen Sequins co-editors


It’s the end of the summer, shiny people, and we’re hard at work getting out our next issue. While it’s far too hot to even deal, our creative non-fiction contributors haven’t been slowed down. Here’s a little taste of what they’ve been working on:

Jake Little (8.1) has a mesmerizing new piece called “During my shift at the Circle K, a young girl asks for cigarettes” at Rabble Lit!

Justin Carter from 7.2 has two pieces of micro prose the New South Journal called “Memory In Which Nothing Happens” and “Slow Erosion”.

Alex McElroy (5.2) is busy writing reviews for the Atlantic! Here’s one he did on a debut novel about the dark side of athletic greatness called Stephen Florida.

Maia Dolphin-Krute from 8.2 wrote a book about “illness not as a metaphor” called GHOSTBODIES, which you can order directly from the site!

J. Bradley (7.1) has work that made the “longlist” over at WIGLEAF!

Lastly, an enormously heartfelt congratulations to Colette Arrand (6.2), who released her book HOLD ME GORILLA MONSOON and enjoyed a fantastic reading tour earlier this summer.

We’ll see you all this coming fall, Shiny Fam, for issue 9.1 and even more contributor news!

Still Life with Book

#StillLifeWithBook is a little corner of our blog where GS contributors and staff share a snippet and a snapshot of their current reads.

child of the dark pic.jpg
Sarah Shields | 8.1 Art Contributor 

Reading: Child of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus (translated from the Portuguese by David St. Clair)—originally titled Quarto de Despejo: Diário de uma Favelada + Sun and Moon written & illustrated by Lindsey Yankey | Currently on page: 45 | Favorite lines so far: “I don’t look for defects in children. Neither in mine nor in others. I know that a child is not born with sense. When I speak with a child I use pleasant words. What infuriates me is that the parents come to my door to disrupt my rare moments of inner tranquility. But when they upset me, I write. I know how to dominate my impulses. I only had two years of schooling, but I got enough to form my character. The only thing that does not exist in the favela is friendship.” / “The sparrows have just begun their morning symphony. The birds must be happier than we are. Perhaps happiness and equality reigns among them. The world of the birds must be better than that of the favelados, who lie down but don’t sleep because they go to bed hungry.” + (pictured) “As the night went on, he saw the flowers of a baobab tree blossom.” When I looked up what a baobab tree is, I was delighted to discover one of its common names is “dead-rat tree” (its fruit looks like rats hanging stiffly by their long tails). | Books’ origins: Child of the Dark: acquired mysteriously. Sun and Moon: borrowed from the Huntington Beach (Central) Public Library.



meg willing | Art & Design Editor  

Reading: There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker | Currently on page: 49 | Favorite lines so far: “Should I answer the phone / Who is it / Who want the world like it is / Spoke Baraka can you hear him now / Do you understand / Are calories and sitcoms / Here to make me sad / Am I a moon no one sees / Does my lipstick look okay / Am I growing tired / Of my alternative lifestyle / Or would I like a fresh glass / Is there something spectacular / In fallen trees ancient hieroglyphs / Hippie towns twentysomethings will they / Save us / Is it possible to disappear / What’s it like to be the first anything” (from “The President’s Wife”) | Book’s origin: Arrived in the mail one afternoon, an unexpected gift from my friend Alana.

GS 8.2 Contribs! Upcoming Events!


Debuting this summer, our 8.2 issue will feature work from the following talented folks:


GS is psyched to be tabling at the NOLA Poetry Fest, whose book fair runs from 10am-5pm on Friday 4/21 & Saturday 4/22. Hope to see you soon in New Orleans!

GS is also excited to announce that they’ll be hosting at reading at this year’s NYC Poetry Fest on Governor’s Island, which operates from July 29-30th. Our featured readers will be Emily Brandt, Kayleb Rae Candrilli, & Zoë Bodzas.


**Teen Nostalgia** (a playlist for Teen Sequins 2017)


A few weeks ago, I started spamming the Gigantic Sequins masthead on Facebook with a question: what were your favorite songs when you were a teenager? I had the idea during last year’s Teen Sequins feature, to make a mixtape, maybe a playlist, of songs we love(d), that inspire(d) us. This year I asked, and the masthead delivered (link to Spotify playlist). I might have skipped class this morning to listen, but that can be our secret.


Here’s what the staff wrote about their picks (links to videos!)…

  1. “Nightswimming” by R.E.M. (Sophie Klahr, Teen Sequins co-editor): “I remember listening to this song on a tape, on repeat, probably around 8th grade.”
  2. “Circles” by Soul Coughing (Kimberly Ann Southwick, Editor in Chief): “released in 1998…these guys were KEY in my late teens; like, I LIVED off of Doughty lyrics all through my late high school & early college years. The link is to the official video for that song. I remember my best friend Kirsten and I walking around the halls at my high school after school was over singing this song.”
  3. “Awake” by Letters to Cleo (Kimberly Ann Southwick): “came out in 1995 but I got really into them like sophomore year of high school. (Regrettably I don’t think I ever saw them live? Living in South Jersey, I got to see a LOT of live music, most of my faves, because we’re so close to both Philly & NYC–& bands even played in Jersey on the way between the two cities or in big arena stadiums right outside of them. Anyway, sucks I never saw them.) I would write LTC lyrics all over everything (which I did with a lot of music) and use them as AIM away messages and such.”
  4. “#1 Crush” by Garbage (Meg Willing, Assistant Production Editor): “from the Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack (1996), 13. On tape, from my Walkman, track one, side one, staring up at bootlegged R+J posters (and postcards and cutouts), lovesick and cursing it.”
  5. “Barnacles” by Ugly Cassanova (Meg Willing): “from a mix CD from Travis, 17. Driving dirt roads in my maroon ’93 Subaru Loyale station wagon, aimless.”
  6. “Rocks Tonic Juice Magic” by Saves the Day (Zach Yontz, Fiction Editor): “from Through Being Cool (1999). I was 13 but probably really got into it around 15-16 (to this day!). You and I are like when fire and the ocean floor collide.”
  7. “A Red So Deep” by Cursive (Zach Yontz): “Was 14! Probably really got into it around 15-16 again. A concept album about divorce really fit my high school age mindset. I was also listening to a lot of Thursday at the time.”
  8. “Gold Lion” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (yours truly): “10 when this album came out…I preordered it from FYE next to Panera in the plaza where my mom grocery shopped. Must have talked her into giving me an advance on multiple allowances. It came with a poster.”
  9. “Nude as the News” by Cat Power (“”): “Wrote one long and awful draft of a YA book inspired by this song. Listened over and over while writing thousands of words, just anything. I refuse to open the document, but I still love this song.”
  10. “Rid of Me” by PJ Harvey (“”): “Bought this album at FYE, too. Brought it home and put my ear to a faux-vintage CD player from Target. A neighbor my mom babysat was there, too. We turned the stereo loud then louder. When the drums came in, the speakers nearly blew. I was exhilarated, my neighbor terrified. This song is what most of the poems I wrote my sophomore year of college wanted to be.”
  11. “El Niagara en Bicicleta” by Juan Luis Gerra (Meg Willing): “16. Living in Bogotá, sneaking around the city with my best girls, dancing, dancing, dancing.”


My brilliant Teen Sequins co-editor, Sophie Klahr, ended up making her own playlist. Thank you, Sophie. Nostalgia forever. Teen Sequins forever! “Untouchable Face” is one of my favorite Ani Difranco songs.

Friends, please help us spread the word about Teen Sequins 2017! And maybe turn up the music.

Until next time,
Robby (Teen Sequins co-editor)

Blog post to a young poet, rejected from a program, who,for a day, wants to quit writing

Dear ________,

I was in graduate school the first time that I heard the term PoBiz, a clipped, half-cynical half-shruggingly sarcastic way of referring to the Poetry Business, which I had also never heard of. I gathered that the Poetry Business entailed marketing one’s self. Are you a female poet? A poet of color? A poet with a disability? With a disease? A queer poet? A religious minority poet? An eco-poet? Etcetera.…I had always written about the things that I felt made me different, the things that stung, because I was alone, lonely with those weights. I wrote about abortion not because I thought I was going to tap into some niche market, but because it weighed heavily on my heart. I wrote about alcoholism because it was the center of my life, not because I was a Bukowski devotee (though there’s nothing wrong with that). I wrote about god and faith not because I had an academic interest in religion and spirituality but because it felt at many points that my life depended on whether or not I was able to tap into a power greater than myself. I never really had any idea about marketing myself. It was true that I wrote mostly about what was hard in my life, but I also wrote about traveling and fish and movies.

Carl Phillips wrote a great essay awhile ago in which talked about being asked why he doesn’t say what color the people in his poems are.  And here is what I’m trying to say, in a roundabout way: The System, any program, any school, any magazine, is going to somewhat judge you through what makes the actual you unique and not wholly on the quality of your writing. It’s a double-edged sword, and a fluid one. Sometimes it can feel as if the system rewards the person, not the poem.

Here is what I’m trying to say: of course the rejection feels personal. It is personal. Some folks got into the program, and you didn’t. You said that you thought you shouldn’t take it personally, but you have every right to take it personally. We pour our hearts into something, toss the thing out into the world, and watch as nobody puts out their arms to catch our beloved pieces. We watch the gears of the PoBiz grinding along, rewarding writers who maybe we think our work is equal to or better than. We think both Why me?! and Why not me!?

But — the poem is also an artifact. It’s something that has been done, a past action. It’s a product of a different moment, a past self. I love the Buddhist saying of “Do your work, then step back.” It’s very simple, but I have thought about it for many years. Some days I am better at stepping back than other days.

If you feel like quitting writing sometimes, that’s ok. The place where a poem comes from is the place where the urge to paint comes from, the place where the urge to swim comes from. It’s something that wants to move. So, let yourself move around. Make a collage, sing a song, pick up an instrument you’ve never played before. Learn to bake bread. But don’t stop embracing the muscular impulse of your creativity. If writing feels daunting, that’s ok. But make something else. Even if it’s just a dance in your bedroom. And, go outside for awhile, without your phone. That helps. It usually helps everything.

I think the real thing to quit is the search for validation, which is insidious. I have to remind myself sometimes of the same thing. When sending out a poem, the thought should not be: I hope that XYZ publication takes this poem so that everyone knows my poem is good enough to be in XYZ publication… it should be: I hope that XYZ publication takes this poem because i really think it is beautiful / strange / insightful / cathartic / funny / etc. and I want to share it with people – I think it might be important for someone. Writing poetry is about the urge to share something, even just with yourself. It’s not about gold stars. There’s no endgame to poetry, as the PoBiz might have you believe. A bio full of laurels and fellowships means almost nothing. Right before my book came out, and I had to choose what my bio in the book would say, I decided that it would be very short. It lists where I was born, and where I live now, two journals where my poems have been published, and the fact that I do interdisciplinary work. What’s most important to me in my bio is the latter, the fact of interdisciplinary work, because I hope, someday, that a visual artist or dancer or painter will write to me and say they’d like to collaborate. It’s almost like a little Personals posting, an ISO. I chose to leave out my education and prizes and residencies not because I don’t value them, but because — that’s not really what I want to talk to people about.

So, don’t worry about being rejected from the residency. Let it be a Not this time instead of a No, never. If you keep writing, and I get the sense that you will always write, there will be dozens of opportunities you might reach for and dozens of times you may be rejected. You get to decide how, and how long, to hold each disappointment. You get to decide what to expect of your writing. Don’t worry about being too much of one thing, or not enough of another. Don’t worry if you don’t publish anything for awhile, or for a long while.There is no right path for a poet, and there millions, literally millions, of incredible poets and writers and literary journals you and I have never heard of. And what a joy! What an absolute joy, to know there are so many more writers we will meet, who will mean so much to us, and to know that the writers we are today might be vastly different than the writers we are in 10 years, in 20 years…There’s no finish line. In the end, there is only the work itself. Enjoy the moment of your work, and how it feels to read your poems aloud, and how those poems can nourish you. Let the rest fall away. Onwards.

( Teen Sequins Co-Editor )