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 

 

 

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.

TEEN SEQUINS IS SEEKING AN EDITORIAL ASSISTANT !

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,

TEEN SEQUINS year-in-review!

This marked our 3rd annual TEEN SEQUINS feature, and phew, ya’ll are growing up so fast. Have a look and see, in their own words, what happened for some of our teens (past and present) this year!

2016’s Age 19 featured poet Brad Trumpfheller had poems appear in Breakwater Review, Muzzle, Gigantic Sequins, Indiana Review, and elsewhere. Poems of theirs are forthcoming in 2018 from West Branch, Puerto del Sol, and The Nation. Find them on Twitter at @bradtrumpfh!

Since early fall of this year, 2017’s Age 15 featured poet Emily Tian has been kept plenty busy reading poetry submissions to The Adroit Journal!

For Daniel Blokh, 2015’s Age 14 featured poet, 2017 brought conflict after the folding of ELJ Publications, which was to publish his chapbook Grimmening the next year. However, after a number of presses opened their doors to dropped ELJ manuscripts, Grimmening was picked up by Diode Editions (an absolute dream press!) for publication in 2018. This, along with the publication of his first chapbook, Holding Myself Hostage in the Kitchen (Lit City Publishing, 2017), has made 2017 a year of incredible blessings – and excitement for the next! Find him on Twitter at @danielblokh!

This year, 2016’s Age 18 featured poet Talia Flores was published in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Shade JournalHobart, and Cosmonauts Avenue. She has work forthcoming in Bennington Review and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, in which she is a finalist for the 2017 Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Poetry Prize.

This year, 2015’s Age 16 featured poet Kathryn Hargett is a college kid from Alabama, a Best of the Net and Pushcart-nominee, and a Kundiman fellow in poetry. Her work has been recognized by Princeton University, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the National YoungArts Foundation,  the Poetry Society of the United Kingdom, and others. She is the editor-in-chief of TRACK//FOUR, a literary magazine for people of color, and interns for Winter Tangerine. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Anomaly (FKA Drunken Boat), the Adroit Journal, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Cosmonauts Avenue.

2017’s Age 14 featured poet Sarah Feng recently turned 15! This February, she started writing poetry. Now a poetry alum of the The Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program, she received the the Best of Issue scholarship for the summer issue of National Poetry Quarterly and the 2017 Critical Pass Junior Poet Award. Her works have been published in the Rising Phoenix ReviewUp the Staircase Quarterly, Sugar Rascals, and Black Napkin Press, and are forthcoming in Glass: A Journal of Poetry. This year, she also recovered from a broken ankle, helped open an art camp, and joined cross country.

In 2017, 2015’s Age 15 featured poet Odelia Fried‘s work was published in Window Cat Press, Blue Bonnet Review, Eunoia Review, and Baldhip Magazine. Over the summer Odelia was a Mechon Hadar Summer Fellow where she studied Talmud, Bible, and Jewish thought for six weeks. She returned to school for her senior year of high school with the jaded cynicism and cautious optimism of an aged circus performer. At the moment, she is waiting on college decision letters and fills the time by rereading Hamlet, completing schoolwork, and attempting to write poetry.
2017’s Age 19 featured poet Juniper Cruz continues to write poetry and Dungeons and Dragons modules in her free time while being a full time student at Kenyon College and working as an associate for the Kenyon Review. Currently, she has a poem in the forthcoming anthology, Halal If You Hear Me, n anthology edited by Fatimah Asghar and Safia Elhillo.
2016’s Age 15 featured poet Aidan Forster is now a senior in the writing program at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. In 2017, his work appeared in  BOAAT, Indiana Review, Pleiades, and Sixth Finch, and is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2017, Columbia Poetry Review, Ninth Letter, and Tin House. Aidan studied under Mary Ruefle at the Tin House Summer Workshop and attended The Home School’s literary intensive. He was a finalist for the Vinyl 45s Chapbook Contest and his debut chapbook of poems, Exit Pastoral, is forthcoming from YesYes Books in 2018. Find him on Twitter at @aforster26.
2017’s Age 18 featured poet Lucie Richter-Mahr started studying at the University of Edinburgh in September this year. She has found a huge number of places to sit and read and is very grateful for the city’s innumerable nooks. She has been visiting the museum, and reading Virginia Woolf. In 2018, she wants to practice writing poetry that is also visual art.
This past year, 2016’s Age 17 featured poet Margaret Zhang‘s poetry was published in SOFTBLOWGlass Poetry Press, and Kweli. Her work is also forthcoming in Salt Hill Journalthe minnesota review, and |tap| magazine. She is now an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania and has spent the year trying to write more creative nonfiction.
In 2017, 2015’s Age 17 featured poetJordan Cutler-Tietjen has written about a devilish park, a vestigial library, and a queer spoken word group. He tells himself that he will write more in 2018. Fingers crossed!
PHEW. Told you so  – this Shiny Family turning it OUT. Looking forward to the next chapters for all our Teen Sequins poets, and looking forward to hearing more new teen voices in 2018! Onwards!
xo,
Sophie Klahr & Robby Auld
Teen Sequins co-editors

TEEN SEQUINS 2017, DAY 7: JUNIPER CRUZ, AGE 19

In Juniper Cruz’s “Dear Summer,” rage is entwined with sweet and with death. Cruz’s speaker wears the rage, a “t-shirt you made out of a boy//the one that punched me and kissed me/on the same night(,)” you being Summer, something larger. Wears the t-shirt in memory, memoriam, thankful for both what is lost and what remains. As the poem progresses, Cruz’s speaker addresses not Summer but Irony, then not Irony but Death, though maybe these are synonymous. Cruz gives this gratitude to us, for what comes next. –Robby Auld

 

Dear Summer,

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Juniper Cruz is a trans Afro-Latina from Hartford, Connecticut. She is currently an undergraduate student at Kenyon College. Her work has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, Poets.org, and Beech Street Review.

 

Honorable mentions: Hannah Brauer (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI); Ashton Carlile (Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY); Ethan Chua (Stanford University, Stanford, CA); Peyton Ipsaro (Kent State University, Kent, OH); Lilly Keefe-Powers (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN); Hannah Sheinkman (Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY)

TEEN SEQUINS 2017, DAY 6: LUCIE RICHTER-MAHR, AGE 18

Where “wires are like black eels” and wind is seen as “a bright coil,” Lucie Richter-Mahr engages with a world we have seen and yet, not-imagined. The title tells us of a more than reluctant invitation, but invited, we are given glimpses of a landscape containing immense strangeness, a strangeness we might not otherwise see without Richter-Mahr as our guide. The speaker’s world seems to tilt as she observes the ‘you’ in a space where she has not wanted to see them; how different the world can be, depending on who stands beside us, or who we stand there thinking of.   — Sophie Klahr

I didn’t want to take you to the Scots pines

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Lucie Richter-Mahr was born in London and moved to Scotland when she was five. She grew up in Berlin, finished high school in Oxford, and will be attending Edinburgh university this autumn. She believes in Anne Carson and Patti Smith.

Honorable mentions: Matilda Berke (Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA); Alixa Brobbey (Brigham Young Univeristy, Provo, UT); Jessica Chang (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI); Steven Chung (Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT); Annabelle Crowe (Rice University, Houston, TX); Jasmine Cui (SUNY Geneseo, Geneseo, NY); Amelia Van Donsel (Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY); Logan February (University of Ibadan, Nigeria); Justin Han (Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI); Caldwell Gregg Holden (Bennington College, Bennington, VT); Avelynne Kang (Concordia University, Montréal, QC); Devanshi Khetarpal (New York University, New York, NY); Caroline Lee (The Hill School, Pottstown, PA); Hannah Leonard (Homewood-Flossmoor High School, Flossmoor, IL); Sharon Lin (Stuyvesant High School, New York, NY); Courtney Munkres (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, New Orleans, LA); Reuben Gelley Newman (Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA); Erin O’Malley (University of Rochester, Rochester, NY); Annasofia Padua (Miami Arts Charter, Miami, FL); Emily Ramsey (John Burroughs High School, Burbank, CA); Khamil Olivia Riley (Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT); Svetlana Sterlin (Queensland University of Technology, Australia); Emma Stinson (Mt. Blue High School, Farmington, ME); Emily Yin (Princeton University, Princeton, NJ); Zuyi Zhao (Stanford University, Stanford, CA)

TEEN SEQUINS 2017, DAY 5: SABINE HOLZMAN, AGE 17

One could characterize Sabine Holzman’s poem as haunted or chilling, but these convenient descriptors would miss the subtle twists of this insistent engagement with memory and grief. “Elegy for My Ghost Mother” is a poem of surprising violence, its lines stretching across the page like a drawn out threat. “Here is the truth: you did not raise me to be kind,” writes Holzman, and the truth again and again is presented in a bluntness only cold can cause, as the speaker’s body becomes a frozen lake, an icicle, something a knife is named after.  — Sophie Klahr

 

 

Elegy for My Ghost Mother

 

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Sabine Holzman is a poet and student from Southern California. Her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Chapman’s Annual Holocaust Art and Writing Contest, the California Coastal Commission, and has appeared in numerous small magazines. In her free time, she enjoys petting her dogs and reading about girls raised by wolves.

Honorable mentions: Brittany Adames (Emerson College, Boston, MA); Sophie Allen (University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA); Margot Armbruster (Brookfield Academy, Brookfield, WI); Marie B (Blue Valley High School, Stilwell, KS); Madison Bissonette (Owatonna Senior High, Owatonna, MN); Emma Camp (Alabama School of Fine Arts, Birmingham, AL); Joseph Felkers (Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School, Grand Rapids, MI); Kate I. Foley; Aidan Forster (Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, SC); M.E. Funke (Los Osos High School, Rancho Cucamonga, CA); Delaney Gaughan (McKinney North High School, McKinney, TX); Farah Ghafoor (Vincent Massey Secondary School, Windsor, ON); Lily Goldberg (Hunter College High School, New York, NY); Yuri Han (Tenafly High School, Tenafly, NJ); Vincent Hao (Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Austin, TX); Rachana Hegde (Hong Kong International School, Hong Kong); Ty Kia (Auburn High School, Rockford, IL); Danie Knopf-Weinstein (The Fine Arts Center, Greenville, SC); Claire S. Lee (Canyon Crest Academy, San Diego, CA); Morgan Levine (High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Houston, TX); Enshia Li (Bayview Secondary School, Richmond Hill, ON); Caitlyn N. Mlodzik (The Vanguard School, Colorado Springs, CO); Rebecca Northup (University of California, Santa Cruz, CA); Sarah Pearl; Lenna Peterson (Chillicothe High School, Chillicothe, MO); Joey Puckett (Edina High School, Edina, MN); Jeniffer Quintela (Miami Arts Charter, Miami, FL); Alex Barrera Reyes (Alamo Heights High School, San Antonio, TX); Magnus Saebo (Upper Arlington High School, Columbus, OH); Elizabeth Sheedy (Norwell High School, Norwell, MA); Sahara Sidi (Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts and Technology, Petersburg, VA); Tanya Singh (Bhavan Vidyalaya, Chandigarh, India); Griffin Somaratne (The Thacher School, Newbury Park, CA); Lizz Stay (Southern Utah University, South Jordan, UT); Stephanie Tom (Roslyn High School, Roslyn Heights, NY); Noah Williams (Arlington High School, Lagrangeville, NY); Topaz Winters (Singapore American School, Singapore); Alisha Yi (Ed W. Clark High School, Las Vegas, NV); Soo Young Yun (Chadwick International, Incheon, South Korea); Joyce Zhou (Neuqua Valley High School, Naperville, IL)