TEEN SEQUINS 2018! Day 2: “After the Funeral” by Taylor Fang, Age 15

In Taylor Fang’s “After the Funeral,” grief is objectified. The poem’s first line, “I bring back everything I find,” is an apt descriptor for the work of the piece, only Fang goes deeper. Does taking things from the meadow, the outer world, endow responsibility? “How little I knew then/about the bitter destruction/I kept in my hands.” Maybe aging is learning of this tendency, this will, to destroy. Maybe part of loss, grief, is the desire to counteract destruction. “I pick out her ring/and slip it onto my finger.” The desire to protect our memories, and the objects that hold them. – Robert Auld

 

After the Funeral

I bring back everything I find
in the meadow by the house
that I grew up in
and pour it on the table.
The coffee cake, shoved sideways,
dangles over an edge.

Once, I stuck a steak knife
between two slats
on the shiplap siding of this place.
How little I knew then
about the bitter destruction
I kept in my hands.
I try to forget the days
when I wanted to die,
or become blonde, or pour flour
from the skies, covering my mouth
like dust. I press my wildflower
wounds between pages.

Last summer blooms
through the cover—
the open window, mother saying
someday you’ll thank me
and all the surrenders that came out of my mouth.
I nod. The room grows cold
around me, around this place
that will soon carry new people
and new hands
to grease the doorknobs
with their leaving.

Keys and shards of glass glitter
against wood. I pick out her ring
and slip it onto my finger. The rest
lays in waiting—
shining, beautiful,
an open field of waste.

 

Taylor Fang lives in Utah. Her poetry appears in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Cargoes, and Rookie Magazine, among others, and has been recognized by the Poetry Society UK. She enjoys playing the piano and spending time outdoors

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Quest B (South Spencer HS, Rockport, IN); Donald Berg (Kirksville HS, Kirksville, MO); Olivia Bramante (Methuen HS, Methuen, MA); Teddi Haynes (Orange County School of the Arts, Santa Ana, CA); Jeremy Hsiao (California School of the Arts, Duarte, CA); Sarah Lao (Westminster School, Atlanta, GA); Lia Marisol Portillo (South Lafourche HS, Cut Off, LA); Sarah Street (Westminster School, Atlanta, GA); Violet Tabacco (Montpelier HS, Montpelier, VT); Anna Wang (Adlai E. Stevenson HS, Lincolnshire, IL); Stephanie Yen (Beachwood HS, Beachwood, OH); Katia Camargo, Zoey Ruzic, Serena Lozandi (Miami Arts Charter School, Miami, FL)

TEEN SEQUINS 2018! DAY 1: “Moses split the red sea, but still, there was no path” by Ottavia Paluch, Age 14

In “Moses split the red sea, but still, there was no path,” we are drawn in by a murmuring voice. An old story, but Ottavia Paluch makes it new. The poem’s voice almost seems private, half-thoughts folding in on one another, occasionally surfacing to speak to us, then again, turning away. It is a voice that lives at a bus stop, quoting Old Testament passages, sometimes audibly, sometimes not. “…I was–/ no miracle. At least I tried,” says the poem, and we are drawn in, to see just why, and how. “I thought of myself / as one of those daughter plants” writes Paluch,” Quenched. Believed.” And indeed, we believe.

— Sophie Klahr

 

Moses split the red sea, but still, there was no path

 

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

—Exodus 14:14

 

I’m not sure who I would’ve belonged to. There’s

the army. The ones who crossed. The

 

skeptic, because perhaps it all was—and I was—

no miracle. At least I tried. At least

 

I could drag myself through desert roads, through propagation.

But when the tide rises, I help little but the schools of fish, so that

 

they can survive. Instead, I prayed–there was a saint in my view,

and I wanted to look holy enough to be worthy of death.

 

I asked for obedience. I colonized. I thought of myself

as one of those daughter plants. Quenched. Believed. My

 

thoughts soon rested in no oasis, but rather a place where they may have

never been seen before. So that I would be no sea;

 

so that Moses might not raise his staff

above me.

 

 

Ottavia Paluch is a 14 year old HS student who attends Philip Pocock Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. In her spare time, she tries to look intellectual by listening to Radiohead, U2, My Chemical Romance, and other lovely alternative rock bands, among other things. Her work is forthcoming or published in Alexandria Quarterly, The Daphne Review, Body Without Organs, in Navigating The Maze’s 2018 anthology, and Bitter Melon.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Ashleigh Elden (Mamaroneck HS, Mamaroneck, NY); Liliana Greyf (Horace Mann School, Bronx, NY); Esther Kim (Holton-Arms School, Bethesda, MD); Katherine Lee (Conestoga HS, Berwyn, PA); Eva Murillo (Walter Payton College Prep, Chicago, IL); Juliana Pratofiorito (Marymount School, New York City, NY); Saniah Wilson (North HS, Torrance, CA); Kaitlyn Zhou (Neuqua Valley HS, Naperville, IL); Vincent Gomez, Maia Tasker, Elyse Thomas, Emmanuel Ortiz-Ochoa (Miami Arts Charter School, Miami, FL)

Starting tomorrow: TEEN SEQUINS 2018

A dead deer, a dick pic, obedience; girlhood, sainthood; plastic flamingos and shattered language: Welcome to the 4th Annual TEEN SEQUINS celebration! We are honored this week to present another galaxy of poems.

This year, poems flew to us from all over the U.S., from Canada, Indonesia, France, Japan – from all over the world. One hundred and fifty-one teen writers (yes, you!) bravely sent us your voices , and as always, we ardently wish that we could feature more than just one poet in each age category! 

Our 2018 Teen Sequins featured poets are Ottavia Paluch (14), Taylor Fang (15), Sophie Paquette (16), Vidhima Shetty (17), Morgan Levine (18), and Annabelle Crowe (19). The work offered by these writers is exemplary of what we see teenage writing is in 2018: full of wonder and watchfulness, furious and self-aware.

As we put together this feature, it was a pleasure to realize that all of our 2018 poems are written by women, some of who are people of color, some of who are disabled. We don’t look for any particular kind of voice or background when we read work – we choose poems that chime with us most deeply- but we are proud to find that we are holding up voices which often must struggle to be heard.  

On a similar note: We read somewhere recently that women are much less likely than men to re-submit to literary journals, but our 19 year old featured poet, Annabelle, has been submitting to TEEN SEQUINS for three years, and it wasn’t until we accepted her poem this year that we realized this fact! We hope that Annabelle’s story can serve as an example to all of our teens who submitted this year, and to anyone who might read this feature – a rejection from a publication doesn’t always mean no. Sometimes it means, not yet. As Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Enjoy this week of poetry, follow along with all the Gigantic Sequins social media, and share share share this wonderful work with everyone you can! Until tomorrow…

 

Happy reading and writing,

Robby Auld and Sophie Klahr

Teen Sequins co-editors

What if not this?: Reflections from Teen Sequins co-editor Sophie Klahr

Years ago during a workshop at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Gregory Orr had us each map out our poetic lineage, our family trees.  What he was asking really was a question about time. My tree truly started to grow in high school, spring all kinds of crazy blooms. A poet in those bursts was Olena Kalytiak Davis – here’s a poem of hers I’ve kept close, something that influenced me deeply when I found it in my senior year of high school:

 

The Panic of Birds

The moon is sick
of pulling at the river, and the river
fed up with swallowing the rain,
So, in my lukewarm coffee, in the bathroom
mirror, there’s a restlessness
as black as a raven.
Landing heavily on the quiet lines of this house.
Again, the sun takes cover
and the morning is dead
tired of itself, already, it’s pelting and windy
as I lean into the pane
that proves this world is a cold smooth place.

Wind against window—let the words fight it out—
as I try to remember: What is it
that’s so late in coming?
 What was it
I understood so well last night, so well it kissed me,
sweetly on the forehead?

Wind against window and my late flowering brain,
heavy, gone to seed. Pacing
from room to room and in each window
a different version of a framed woman
unable to rest, set against a sky
full of beating wings and abandoned
directions. Her five chambered heart
filling with the panic of birds, asking: What?

What if not this?

 

 

That poem appeared in an anthology called American Poetry, The Next Generation, and I dog-eared the hell out of that book. Underlines, marginalia, the works. Nobody pointed me to that poem, I just read, read and read voraciously. I think I read because I was lonely, and I wrote because I was stuck. Sometimes it is that simple, no matter how old you are. I was private with those poems for years, and that’s part of what makes me so astonished and so humbled to read submissions for Teen SequinsEvery teen who sends us their poem is brave, unquestionably. That’s part of why we give an honorable mention to all those who submit. I think as one turns into an older writer, the distinction of “honorable mention” can be sort of tossed off, in the the way that a silver medalist might be pissed and a bronze medalist might be elated. But when Robby and I give honorable mentions, it’s because we really see the action of sending out a poem into the world as honorable. We create a poetry world by sharing poetry, and by sharing their (your) poetry with us, these teens (you!) make our world better. There’s a ripple effect I think. And we don’t take it lightly either, the honor of reading what is sometimes a person’s (your) first submission, the first time a poem is sent to anyone outside of a classroom. We know that, and we’re terribly grateful to be trusted in such a way.

Isn’t it good and strange and difficult and wonderful to be in the world? What? / What if not this? 

Teens, send us your work.  If you submitted to us last year and you weren’t featured, submit again. We’ll hold your work in the best way we can, celebrate you to the fullest.

 

Sincerely and fondly and all that jazz,

Sophie 

 

 

Announcing… the GS 9.2 Roster!

Gigantic Sequins 9.2 debuts this summer, and we can’t wait. Meanwhile, here are all the writers & artists whose fantastic work will be appearing within its print pages! WHILE YOU’RE AT IT, check out our online store for a SNEAK PREVIEW of the 9.2 front cover (art by Fumi Mini Nakamura, design by meg willing)… and your first opportunity to pre-order this phenomenal issue. A full spread of the cover should go up on our official website within the next month or so.
Meriwether Clarke
Kelsey Gray
Mitchell King
Natalie Sharp
Sarah Thompson
plus, a book review of The Barbarous Century by Leah Umansky (Eyewear Press, March 2018) by Kim Jacobs-Beck

Results of the (occasional) 2018 Winter Contests!

FLASH CNF RESULTS

“31 – 4 – 25” by Doug Paul Case | WINNER, Selected by Paul Lisicky

“Essay in Which I’ve Borrowed my Boyfriend’s T-Shirt” by Doug Paul Case | Finalist

“Duck Duck” by Brooke Larson | Finalist

“Grief Studies” by Natalie Sharp| Finalist

“Landing” by Matt Stebbins | Finalist

 

POETRY COMICS FINALISTS

“Lightless” by Annalise Mabe | WINNER, Selected by Gabrielle Bates

“im dehydrated” by Zoë Blair-Schlagenhauf | Finalist

“my laptop is my lover” by Zoë Blair-Schlagenhauf | Finalist

“when im like, really depressed i have a lot of sex” by  Zoë Blair-Schlagenhauf | Finalist

“Dominion” by Mercer Hanau| Finalist

 

Thanks to the judges and all who entered! Special thanks, too, to Matthew Mahaney, whose cross-stitches are a part of the prize for each winner. A full list of all the writers & artists we’ll be publishing in GS 9.2, debuting this summer, along with these winning works, will be out soon.

 

A Note on Understanding : reflections from Teen Sequins Co-Editor Robby Auld

Nearly six summers ago, I sat my seventeen-year-old self on a bench in the Boston Common and tried to calm down. Early on a Monday morning, as business people rushed by swinging briefcases, parents ran past with strollers, and pigeons started circling, I breathed and relaxed, inhaling the city’s energy.

I was in Boston for GrubStreet’s Summer Teen Fellowship. The afternoon I found out I was accepted, alone in my house, I jumped through every sunlit room like my own carpeted trampoline, squealing in delight to my mother over the phone, out of character but ecstatic nonetheless. The doubts came later. While I loved taking the train into the city, catching the subway, I had no clue what to expect from the fellowship. Seventeen-year-old me would have cackled if I told him that not only would the three-week fellowship alter the course of his creative life, but that five and a half years later, he would return to intern with the Young Adult Writers Program.

I was not expecting to feel as emotional as I did the first time I stood in the door frame of a classroom at GrubStreet, full of young writers sharing their work, nearing tears as their guardians crept down the hallway, straining to hear every word. I stood at the threshold a few weeks ago, at the end of an afternoon of free workshops, thinking fleetingly, longingly, lovingly of my seventeen-year-old self, how much he needed that community, that room full of peers not judging his appearance but, if anything, his words.

Even then, is it judgment? Approval? I think it is closer to understanding. As a young writer (am I still one?), entering a room full of strangers who were also young(er) writers felt radical to me. Almost immediately, I allowed myself to share more openly because I assumed that, by virtue of our creativity, and a desire to discover through a shared language, we knew each other already, even if that was only a place to begin. Begin we did.

Today, as an intern at GrubStreet, I find myself in a position similar to the one Teen Sequins has given me. I first wanted to say that both my positions as co-editor and intern have me on the other side of the divide between student and instructor, mentee and mentor, writer and editor, but what these positions truly offer me are fresh perspectives from which to remain a student. As I continue to learn from the writers who share their work with Teen Sequins, and the ways they share with each other, I now also learn watching the writers at GrubStreet, even if most of the time I am ordering pizza and rearranging chairs.

To celebrate the ending of the Summer Teen Fellowship almost six years ago, we had a reading on one of the top floors at GrubStreet, which overlooks the Boston Common and that bench I went to sit on every morning when I was seventeen. Memory feels more malleable as time passes, but I think that day was the first time I read in public. After the reading, the manager of what was (and remains, though not (only) for this reason) my favorite bookstore asked me, brows raised, “That was your first time reading in public?” Something like that, not much of a question, but hearing it from him was earth-shattering, and opened to another earth.

Validation is far from everything, but in that moment I felt understood, and maybe started to understand myself, too, what I want from this creative life. Moments of understanding have filled my time at GrubStreet, and I hope Teen Sequins offers this kind of support, too, for the writers sharing their work with us. I put myself out there, my lines on the line, and they gave back. My work with Teen Sequins, and at GrubStreet, is to pass this on.

—— Robby Auld, Teen Sequins co-editor

 

Teen Sequins submissions for our 2018 feature are now open, through July 31st! Visit here for guidelines and to read past features.