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 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.


Welcome to day six of Teen Sequins. Today we’re featuring “Conversation” by Savannah Hampton.

Shifting from a spoken word, to instinctual sound, to personal sensation, “Conversation” becomes a kind of spiritual convergence–what happens between a question spoken and private desire. Touching a horse becomes a prayer. Savannah Hampton’s “Conversation” is an act of following the mind as it experiences the world, a delicate movement from what is said to what  is felt to what is hungered for. — Sophie Klahr

“I’d like//to become the fruit/inside her,” Hampton writes, in place of answering the question posed in the poem’s beginning. The poem serves as its own answer; the hair of the horse feels pure and protective as, potentially, a womb. While both speaker and reader become aware that, despite our desire, we inevitably exist in the “humid air” that concludes the poem, there is a longing which Hampton expresses in clear and succinct language and a slight humor. — Robby Auld


The man asks me if the
hair feels like a peach or
the skin of a smooth

avocado. I laugh and
run my hand across the
back of the horse. I’d like

to become the fruit
inside her, I think. Preserve me.
Carry me, gracefully

hidden through the

humid air.

Savannah Hampton will shortly be a second year writing student at Pratt Institute. She is intrigued by both short fiction and poetry and likes to imagine blending the two. She matured in Reno, Nevada, where she was surrounded by mountains. Now she is surrounded by buildings, but she finds a certain charm in both.

Honorable mentions: Michael Betancourt (Brookdale Community College, Matawan, New Jersey); Carey Blankenship (Berry College, Mount Berry, GA); Erica Cheung (Rice University, Houston, TX; Khadjiah Johnson (Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY); Jess(i)e Marino (Kenyon College, Gambier, OH); Julia Powers (Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY); Caroline Shea (University of Vermont, Burlington, VT); Amanda Silberling (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA); Zoe Stoller (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA); Michael Zendejas (Lonestar Montgomery, Houston, TX)


(update, 2022: the poem has been removed at the author’s request)

Michal Leibowitz, 18, was born and raised in White Plains, NY. After high school, she spent a year in Israel where she studied, worked, and wrote poetry. Michal’s work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Cleaver Magazine, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and the Winter Tangerine Review. Michal will be attending Stanford University in the fall of 2015.

Honorable mentions: Leah Bordlee (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, New Orleans, LA); Kenzie Bruce (Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, Pittsburgh, PA); Sarah Chekfa (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY); Jessica Ignasky (Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, Pittsburgh, PA); Seanan Kenney (Champs Charter High School, Van Nuys, CA); Luis Lizam (Humble High School, Humble, TX); Bre’Ann Newsome (Lehman College, Bronx, NY); Ike Nwoye (Truman College, Chicago, IL); Drew Praskovich (Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, Pittsburgh, PA); Olivia Spring (School of the Future High School, NY, NY); Eleanor Stern (Barnard College, NY, NY); Eli Winter (Carnegie Vanguard High School, Houston, TX)


Welcome to day four of Teen Sequins. Today we’re  featuring “Bedside” by Jordan Cutler-Tietjen.

“Bedside” begins with a striking and intriguing comparison; a bed of fruitless fingernails and peaches from a willow tree. Cutler-Tietjen maintains this eccentric imagery throughout the poem with a unique and vivid intimacy. All is romanticized. Fingernails and the springs of “our mattress” and “the twist of loose water spigots” compile to form an image of a life, only strengthening the resonance of the poem’s conclusion, of the speaker’s desire. The reader may pray with the poem for the seedlings, potentially their own, the confession becoming communal. – Robby Auld

If we are to believe, as T.S. Eliot (nodding to Coleridge) suggested, in the idea that “making the familiar strange and the strange familiar” is a quality of good poetry, what we have in  “Bedside” is a very good poem. The title would lead us to an expectation of gentleness or care, but within the first line there is a sharp disruption of an intimate space. Physical detritus that might cause revulsion for the reader is never such for the speaker: torn fingernails of a lover are slices of fruit, “pale seedlings.” There is a startling sweetness to Cutler-Tietjen’s poem, and by the end, we see that the title of the poem does in fact contain the truth of it. This is a love poem, a poem of the body, attentive and shot through with longing. Strange familiar, familiar strange. – Sophie Klahr


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Jordan Cutler-Tietjen is possibly the least tan SoCal teen you’ll ever meet. He attends La Cañada High School, and will stumble awkwardly into adulthood with the rest of the Class of 2016. Jordan also sings with his choir, runs his school’s Newspaper & Literary Arts Magazine, and wishes he spent more time eating samosas.

Honorable mentions: Dana Acosta (The Academy of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, White Plains, NY); Ahmir Allen (Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, Pittsburgh, PA); Amelia Berg (Williamston High School, Williamston Michigan); Kate Bollinger (Tandem Friends School, Charlottesville, VA); Serena Devi (Lafayette High School, Lexington, Kentucky); Samantha Eppinger (Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, Pittsburgh, PA); Taylor Fife (Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, Pittsburgh, PA); Andrea Giugni (University of Chicago, Chicago, IL); Otto Junior (Smithtown High School West, Smithtown, NY); Micaela Macagnone (Grace Church School High School Division, Manhattan, New York City); Rena Medow (Laurel Charter High School, Viroqua, Wisconsin); Priscilla Munoz (Booker T. Washington HSPVA, Dallas, Texas); Meghana Mysore (Lake Oswego High School, Lake Oswego, OR); Alexis Payne (Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, Pittsburgh, PA); Anya Ptacek (Poughkeepsie Day School, Poughkeepsie, NY); Tiéra Reann Guereña (Blue Hands Art Academy, Globe, AZ); Ron Thatcher (Oak HIlls High School, Cincinnati, OH); Kizer Shelton (High School for Performing and Visual Arts, Houston, TX); Lucy Wainger (Stuyvesant High School, New York, NY); Audrey Zhao (Marin Academy, San Rafael, CA)


Welcome to day two of Teen Sequins! Today we’re featuring “You You You” by Odelia Fried. 

The form of Fried’s poem is both beautiful and reflective, “like the light off a broken mirror.” Fried depicts the chaos of lust with a startling eloquence, not only in language but in structure, the poem exploring both light and dark, sun and moon, “hhhhallelujah” and Lucifer with lucidity amongst its disorder. Fried’s diction is multifaceted; the poem addresses its audience. “undress me…decorate my floor…talk to me,” Fried writes to a lover, to a reader, with a desire, a knowing, and a subtle wit that is astounding. – Robby Auld

“i am the coming of spring,hard and sweet” writes Odelia Fried in “You You You,” a poem that pushes against convention. That first person assertion seems not only to be the speaker’s, but the spirit of Fried herself, the arrival of the new. We have the pleasure here of watching Fried play inside convention — celestial images, angels and skeletons, the sometime violence of desire– while moving with self-consciousness inside the language of a relationship with a lover (real or imagined) as she writes “talk to me with…/ whatever english used to / be,whatever i used to be.”  All creativity begins with the spirit of experiment, that necessary spark a requirement for growth. Fried’s poem allows us a glimpse of a poet mid-spark, mid-bloom. – Sophie Klahr

You You You

featherlight touches(new,young,broken)
you are the sun(and i the moon)you slowly
undress me,rays of dawn peeling back my eyelids,
hhhhallelujah. your armor is splayed across the floor
heaps of limbs,metal plates,underwear,fortress walls
decorate my floor,skeletons in the closet reach out,grab
and retreat shyly. i am the coming of spring,hard and sweet and
blooming,reaching at sheets.your shoulderbones flex,lithe and
sharp as lucifer’s wings.(everyone forgets he was god’s favorite
once)your halo glitters like the light off a broken mirror,
talk to me,talk to me with languages so mangled
beautiful,they spill off your tongue.ancient greek bastardized
with arabic,persian,whatever english used to
be,whatever i used to be. your love feels
like a punch in the face,and somehow i don’t
mind the bruises at all,they sprout like violets under
my eyes.

Odelia Fried is a fifteen year old student at SAR High School in Riverdale, NY. Her interests include theater, slam poetry, and watching dozens of Buzzfeed videos one after the other. She performs in her school slam poetry league as well as at UrbanWord NYC.

Honorable mentions: Micheal Acevedo (Middlesex School, Brooklyn, NY); Margot Armbruster (Brookfield Academy, Elm Grove, WI); Lily Ruth Bryant (Red Hook High School, Red Hook, NY); Tiegan Dakin (Dapto High School, Dapto, NSW); Emma Foley (Natick High School, Natick, MA); Ethan Liu (Thomas S. Wootton High School, Rockville, Maryland); Jacob Wang (University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Winston-Salem, North Carolina)


Welcome to day three of Teen Sequins. Today we’re featuring “Moro Reflex” by Katy Hargett.

It is common knowledge that poetry springs deeply from sound, from song. But as Gregory Orr suggests in “Four Temperaments and the Forms of Poetry” the quality of the greatest poetry is an interdependence on music and imagination, story and structure. Kathryn Hargett’s poem “Moro Reflex” swims with these fused temperaments, a story of family in flowing fragments, led by imagination and the music of language both foreign and domestic. “Bronx is shiqip for asphyxiation,” we are told, and the poem’s lines of shiqip (which if we search, we learn is Albanian) requires no translation, as it stands alone in its song, though its translation brings forward another leaf of narrative. “Asnjëherë mos kini frikë,” the speaker tells Vira, Never fear. “…your mouth forgets your father’s knuckles / as they grope for something to cure,” writes Hargett, and the desire for a cure, for consolation, seems the central spring of this poem, though it seems almost wrong to pull for just one theme from a poem whose craft is as unmistakable and luminous as the bodies to which it has dedicated its act of witnessing. – Sophie Klahr

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Kathryn Hargett is a junior at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Her work has been recognized by numerous national and state-level writing competitions, and has been published by Polyphony HS and Canvas. She is also a 2015 poetry mentee with the Adroit Journal. She believes that rock & roll can save her mortal soul.

Honorable mentions: Analiese Bolinder (Boise High School, Boise, Idaho); Amelia Cabrera (Somersworth High School, Somersworth, NH); Ginny Cunningham (Brighton High School, Cottonwood Heights, UT); Danae Devine (Idyllwild Arts Academy, Ballard, CA); Chandler Dangaard (Fusion Academy, Warner Center, CA); Charlotte Foreman (American Heritage School, Plantation, FL); Taylor Loudermill (Olathe South High School, Olathe, KS); Aimee Lowenstern (Sierra Nevada College, Reno, Nevada); Lauren C. Maltas (Rastrick, West Yorkshire, England, UK); Meghan McGinnis (Skyline High School, Salt Lake City, UT); Grace Montgomery (Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, MI); Lydia Myers (Penn-Trafford High School, Harrison City, PA) Bessie Liu, (University High School, Irvine, CA); Annalise Lozier (Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, MI); Stephanie Lu (Lynbrook High School, San Jose, CA); Isaac Monroe (Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania); Luis Neer (Oak Glen High School, New Cumberland, WV); Jessica Romoff (Brentwood High School, Los Angeles, CA); Bashar Yehya (Maroun Abboud Official Secondary School, Souk al Gharb, Mount Lebanon); Jaelynn Walls (Carnegie Vanguard High School, Houston, TX)


TEEN SEQUINS, featuring Daniel Blokh, age 14

Welcome to day one of Teen Sequins! Today we’re featuring “Nativity” by Daniel Blokh.

“listen” Daniel Blok’s poem tells us. Here is birth and death, birdsong and technicolor; here is the voice of a new poet, and the story of where that voice begins. “Nativity” spins a type of personal creation myth, run through with spiritual hunger and lyric heights. The world of “Nativity” is a place where the sky has bones and veins, where America is ruled by “..its god of symmetry, its jesus / of the atom.” “The american dream / swallows my nights,” asserts the speaker, and assertion is truly at the core of this poem. “listen” the poems tells us, over and over again. And we want to. — Sophie Klahr

“Nativity” is meant to be read aloud. Narrative, explorative, and declarative, Blokh balances these elements with sound. The alliteration and assonance of the poem gives a music to its story: “Listen: I was born in a land that is not my own,/baptised in oil and taught to drink/gold. Born already buried in light/that I cannot scrub from my skin.” As the narrative follows the speaker from imagined birth to death, from place to place, Blokh’s diction creates a rhythm, rendering his turns of phrase all the more surprising. — Robby Auld


listen: this is where i want to be born
kicking and drowning face-down

in a pool of cosmos, born
in a body woven by sparrows from sticks
and straw. i want to live
with birdsongs fluttering
in my chest. i want to pray
to a bone jutting through the sky, in a land
where leaves unfurl to teach me
their silver dew
of song.

Listen: I was born in a land that is not my own,
baptised in oil and taught to drink
gold. Born already buried in light
that I cannot scrub from my skin.

Here, the sky bleeds, veins unhinged
by careless fingers. They shave
the receding hairline
of the stars.
I run from this country
of soggy technicolor in breakfast bowls,
run from its children drinking coins through juice boxes
and calling themselves americans,
run from its god of symmetry, its jesus
of the atom. I run from a country
that has been braided into my flesh.

I run from myself. The american dream
swallows my nights.

listen: this is where i want to die,
miles away from sam and his golden hands. this
is where i want to die, sky
staining my bare feet, planets
peeling under my nails.

this is my hunger:
to dive through the sky,
to dissolve amongst it. this
is how i want to be born.

Daniel Blokh is a poet and novice filmmaker. Born to Russian parents, English is his second language, but he loves it dearly and enjoys experimenting with it. He pursues creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine arts, and is the recipient of a Scholastic silver medal in writing. His hobbies include combining poetry and photography, writing film reviews, and crying shamefully as he takes more helpings of fries.

Honorable mentions: Sarah Connor (Community School of Davidson, Davidson, NC); Katherine Higgins (Carleton Washburne Junior High School, Winnetka, IL); Kacey Houlihan (Community School of Davidson, Davidson, NC); Rukmini Kalamangalam (Carnegie Vanguard High School, Houston, TX); Emma Rizo (Community School of Davidson, Davidson, NC); Shruti Sahu (Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX); BayLeaf Wilson (Oakland School for the Arts, Oakland, CA)


A note from Robby Auld and Sophie Klahr, curators of the Teen Sequins feature:

We are overwhelmed by the inventiveness, insight, honesty, humor, and craft of all the teenage writers who submitted to the Teen Sequins feature. We are overwhelmed but not surprised, because we believed in teenage voices from the outset of this project: our goal was to show the world exactly how vibrant we know teenage voices are.

Nearly 100 writers representing England, Lebanon, Australia, and 24 of the United States sent their poems to us. These writers have done exactly what an editor hopes for: made it very hard for us to choose only a few poems to present here.

Our reasons for creating this feature spring from personal experience.

Robby’s story: I was 14 when I first came across Sophie’s blog and read her poetry. Struck by the clarity of her voice and vision, and her passion for poetry, I was an instant fan. In adolescent impulsivity, I sent her a gushing, likely invasive email, asking her to read some of my earliest poems. To my amazement, even today, she said yes. To my continuous amazement, it has grown from there. For the past six years, Sophie’s work and the work she has shared has been my poetic education. Witnessing her life as an artist, in pursuit of knowledge and poetry and presence, has been indescribably influential on me. Her investment, mentorship, and friendship has given me the confidence to grow into the person and poet I am today. I wish the experience upon every writer we chose for this feature, and every writer who submitted.

Sophie’s story: When Robby was 14 years old, he emailed me (then 26) to say that he had found my poetry online, and that I was (to my surprise) his “favorite poet.” He asked if I might read and comment on some of his work. I had never considered that such a young person might be reading my poetry; I was surprised by Robby’s maturity and passion, and agreed to offer my perspective. Six whole years later, as our individual writing lives grow, I can wholeheartedly say that Robby has deeply inspired me. Our relationship has shown me that some of the most meaningful mentorship doesn’t arise from any sort of obligation or academic setting, but springs from a place of simple curiosity and care. It is a beautiful education that Robby has given me, this opportunity to participate in his blossoming creative life. I wish the same opportunity for all of my peers — for a young person to come into their lives and teach them even just a little of what Robby has taught me.

While teenage voices are being given more opportunities in literary communities, we don’t see it happen enough in association with national journals such as Gigantic Sequins. What we’re honored to present to you this week is a selection of writing from teenagers ages 14 through 19, including not only a featured poet but also the names of the all the writers who sent their work to us, for they are all worthy of attention and honorable mention. These writers are our students, our teachers, and our future. We hope you love these poems as much as we do.


Robby Auld and Sophie Klahr