what shines

by sophie

what never surprises me about teenagers is when they’re present, really present. maybe nothing surprises me about teenagers, except that it seems society at large often underestimates what beauty and insight their creative work can contain.  perhaps this is often because there’s very little space for it, because most of the time they’re under what’s called “adult supervision” or something like that, perhaps because they’re still in high school, still have curfews and most have parents or parental figures that worry about their choices, about college. from where i stand, what helps teenagers the most is guidance, counsel, suggestions, not rules, not rubrics. maybe what adults can best do for creative teenagers is create space in which they can stand on their own, encourage them to make their own spaces, their own standards.

robby auld wrote to me when he was 14, and I was 26. he said that i was his favorite poet, and asked if i’d read some of his poems. i said yes. we’ve been friends for six years now, inspirations to one another, and this summer, we created an online feature under the umbrella of gigantic sequins, titled teen sequins, a space to celebrate the poetry of teenagers 14 through 19 years old. here now below are the results of this feature, poetic voices exemplary in their age groups, and all the names of those teenagers who submitted to teen sequins. all of them deserve to be celebrated.

Age 14: Daniel Blokh, “Nativity” 

Age 15: Odelia Fried, “You You You” 

Age 16: Katy Hargett, “Moro Reflex”

Age 17: Jordan Cutler-Tietjen, “Bedside” 

Age 18: Michal Leibowitz, “Dear Marcelle”

Age 19: Savannah Hampton, “Conversation” 

robby and i have been so excited about this project that we’ve started another one – the gigantic sequins mentorship program – where those teenage poets who submitted to teen sequins can connect to older poets, anyone from 23 to 99, who is interested in expanding their world. there are no rules to the mentorship program, and it is a program only loosely. we might have done better to call it a pathway, as all we wish to do is to help one poet find another. i wish that all poets could have the same experience that robby and i have had — something unexpected, inspiring, a relationship in poetry outside the confines of any formal academic program or literary institution, where the only thing that connects us is our desire to be connected, our respect for one another, and the willingness to learn from one another…. perhaps you’d like to join us…