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,




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.


2018 will mark the fourth annual Teen Sequins feature! Every year, we’ve worked to expand our scope to reach more and more teens who might be interested, and that means doing a lot of outreach. After three seasons of outreach, we’ve learned a big lesson: we need help!
We’re looking for an Editorial Assistant to join the Teen Sequins team! The ideal person is someone outgoing and familiar/networked with various types of literary communities, who believes in our mission and can invest themselves in spreading the word about our annual feature! ( And even if you don’t meet that “ideal” that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t apply!)
The primary responsibilities of the Editorial Assistant will be organizational and promotional, but this isn’t just behind-the-scenes work – we’ll also count on you to be a great public spokesperson for Teen Sequins, and to bring your own experience as a teen writer to the table.
This gig is open to anyone over age 15 ! The very basic requirement is someone active on multiple social media platforms (Twitter is a must, at the very least) and very comfortable corresponding with new people! And, of course, is detail-oriented and poetry-loving!
What’s in it for you? A place on our masthead, the Gigantic Sequins blog as an occasional platform for your thoughts, and our eternal gratitude! This isn’t a paid position – nobody associated with Gigantic Sequins or Teen Sequins has a paid position. We also have no submission fees & probably run the cheapest contests around ( $5! We’ve got one open right now, in fact). After spending nearly a decade in a variety of unpaid positions at Gigantic Sequins (as Poetry Editor from 2010-2015, and now as Teen Sequins co-editor, along with Robby Auld), I’ll say that my experience has been 100% invaluable, and yours might be too.
Teen Sequins is a project born out of my long relationship with Robby, our respect for one another as poets, and our desire to see teen poets held up in the literary community. If you don’t already know the origin story of Teen Sequins, you can read about it here, in our first post from 2015.  We’re hoping to find someone who can be as committed to this project as we are!
To APPLY: Email me at sophie.klahr@gmail.com for the nitty-gritty on this position,. Please include a bit about yourself (any previous experience with literary journals, etc.), along with your Twitter handle.  We’re looking to fill this position ASAP !
Sincerely, and fondly, and all that jazz,


I say, let’s spring ahead a little early this week and celebrate some awesome news from our shiny poetry contributors!


Make (No) Bones about it! Check out 3.2’s Toby Altman’s new poetry podcast of the very same name! His first includes an interview with Jacob Saenz.


4.1’s Mel Bentley’s book Bucolic Eclogue is now available for preorder from Lame House Press.


Read two poems by Doug Paul Case (4.2) in the newest Devil’s Lake.


Check out this great interview with 7.1’s José Hernández Díaz for The New Delta Review.


Read 5 new poems by Jon-Michael Frank (5.1) in the new Prelude Magazine.


3.1’s Laura Goode’s essay “I Was In Recovery From Anorexia — & Then I Got Pregnant” appears in Refinery 29.


Rebecca Hazelton (4.1) has a poem in the March issue of Poetry Magazine.


Erin Lyndal Martin (7.1) interviews Lucinda Williams about “Highway 20” over at NO DEPRESSION.


2.2’s Yelena Moskovich’s debut debut novel THE NATASHAS is out now through Serpent’s Tail. Get your copy here!


Listen to 1.1 Chris Peck’s reimagination/remix of The Heavy Howl song “The Mask” here.


4.2’s Kylan Rice has a poem in the newest issue of Pith.




Editor-in-Chief Kimberly Ann Southwick wrote a great piece on editing Gigantic Sequins called “IT’S NOT A JOB: IT’S MY LIFE” for Actual Pants.


You can now download our poetry reader Samantha Duncan’s chapbook The Birth Creatures for free (!) from Agape Editions here. She also had a poem appear in Stirring.


Poetry Reader Michael Wilson’s first book of poetry A Child of Storm is forthcoming from Stalking Horse Press in October 2016!


Dylan Weird (Poetry Reader) has a poem that you can read (and listen to!) via Word Riot.


Contributing Editor Sophie Klahr’s poem “Diagnosis” was featured in the Harvard Review Online. She will be reading at Pleiades, 32 Poems, and Tupelo Quarterly’s Offsite AWP Reading along with 6.2’s Bianca Stone on Wednesday, March 30th, from 7-9 pm at Opulen Studios in LA. You can find more details about the reading here.


Are you a Shiny contributor reading at AWP in LA this year? Let us know! We want to create our own Map to the Stars, so-to-speak.



Over on our fabulous tumblr page, our editors listed the scariest books they ever read. Lock your doors, check under your beds, and pick up one of these to read:


Nonfiction Editor, Ian Carlos Crawford

  1. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (I got halfway through this book and had to put this book down for 2 months bc it scared me so much)
  2. Monster Island by David Wellington
  3. The Shining by Stephen King
  4. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  5. Marvel Zombies: Dead Days by Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillips (this one more upset me than scared me – the opening scene always stuck with me)


Poetry Editor, Chrissy Friedlander

  1. One Day at Horrorland by R.L. Stine (Goosebumps!)
  2. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
  3. Christine by Stephen King (side note: my dad named me after this Christine! GOOD GOD.)
  4. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz (AND THOSE ILLUSTRATIONS BY STEPHEN GAMMELL AHH)
  5. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess


EIC Kimberly Ann Southwick

  1. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  2. Metropole by Ferenc Karinthy
  3. The Pillowman Martin McDonagh
  4. The Hawkline Monster by Richard Brautigan
  5. 2666 by Roberto Bolaño


Fiction Editor, Zach Yontz

  1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  2. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  3. Sylvia by Leonard Michaels
  4. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  5. Metropole by Ferenc Karinthy


Many of our Editors weighed in this March about what songs would make the Soundtrack to their lives. We tried to only include 5, but a few of us couldn’t help but add slightly more. Here’s a round-up of all of them, which were originally posted via the GS tumblr!

EIC Kimberly Ann Southwick’s #LifeSoundtrack

  1. “Never Going Back to New Jersey” by Less Than Jake
  2. “Rising Sign” by Mike Doughty
  3. “Gigantic” by The Pixies
  4. “Want on Nothing” by Hoots & Hellmouth
  5. “Ready or Not” by The Fugees
  6. “City Middle” by The National
  7. “Anywhere I Lay My Head” by Tom Waits
  8. “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars

Fiction Editor Zach Yontz’s #LifeSoundtrack

  1. “Never Meant” by American Football
  2. “Swimmers” by Broken Social Scene
  3. “Plea from a Cat Named Virtue” by The Weakerthans
  4. “Eskimo Snow” by Why?
  5. “Storm” by Godspeed You Black Emperor!
  6. “Brother” by Annuals
  7. “One Bird. One Stone” by Kind of Like Spitting

Non-fiction Editor Ian Carlos Crawford’s #LifeSoundtrack

  1. “Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities
  2. “Banquet” by Bloc Party
  3. “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes
  4. “Winner” by Brendan Maclean
  5. “Kids” by MGMT
  6. “Cute without the ‘E’ (Cut From the Team)” by Taking Back Sunday
  7. “Changes” by David Bowie
  8. “Beggin’ (Pilooski edit)” by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
  9. “Heart of Glass” by Mini Mansions

Guest Poetry Editor Sommer Browning’s #LifeSoundtrack

  1. “Flashlight” by Parliament 
  2. “Gibsom Street” by Laura Nyro
  3. “If 6 Was 9″ by The Jimi Hendrix Experience 
  4. “Lorelei” by Cocteau Twins
  5. “Little Wings” by Mark Gormley

Assistant Non-fiction Editor J.E. Reich’s #LifeSoundtrack

  1. “London Calling” by The Clash
  2. “Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken” by Camera Obscura
  3. “Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths
  4. “Every Ghetto, Every City” by Lauryn Hill
  5. “This Will be Our Year” by The Zombies

Contributing Editor Sophie Klahr’s #LifeSoundtrack

  1. “What’s New Pussycat” by Tom Jones
  2. “sea talk” by Zola Jesus
  3. ”Street hassle” by Lou Reed
  4. “For Kalaja Mari” by School of Seven Bells
  5. “Solitude” by Girls 

Tweet us to let us know what makes YOUR #LifeSoundtrack!

Masthead Changes at GS for our Upcoming Submissions Period!

After ten strong issues with us— one as a poetry reader, nine as our Poetry Editor— Sophie Klahr has decided to change gears in the Gigantic Sequins world and is stepping into a newly created Contributing Editor position. We’re grateful for the time she spent as Poetry Editor and very excited about her new position. Make sure to check out her Editor’s Note in our forthcoming 6.1 issue!

This being said, we’re happy to announce that Sommer Browning will be our Guest Poetry Editor for issue 6.2! Get to know Sommer a little better by visiting our website’s About page, purchasing at least one if not also the other of her great books, both out from the great Birds LLC (our “Row 700” buddies for 2015’s AWP), and following her ASAP on twitter.

Additionally, we’ve hired J.E. Reich as our Assistant Non-fiction Editor! She’s an Editor at Medium, and her novella The Demon Room is available as an ebook or an audiobook.

We’re so happy to have these two ladies on board with us as we move into 2015.