Introductions: Imagination into Ink, Part 2
June 15, 2016
Paired with images from May 26th, the second night of our 2016 WITS Year-End Readings, these are just a few of the extraordinary introductions our writers-in-residence have written for their students, giving us insight into how WITS students view the world, themselves, and their writing.
WITS Writer Margot Case introduces Quinn Angelou-Lysaker and Stefania Escoz
Quinn’s writing came at me like a nuclear submarine. She kept a pretty low profile in class, but one piece of loose leaf after another was knocking me out with these striking moments, built like perfect little Jenga towers, so thoughtfully assembled I couldn’t help but hold my breath. Every week I’d read through the stack of papers. “Who wrote this?” Quinn. “Who wrote this?” Quinn. “Who wrote this?” Quinn. She’s the kind of writer who takes a prompt and explodes it, who dives deep, speaks her truth, and is relentlessly unafraid. Her words have a beautiful and seemingly effortless power. Now that my radar is up and running, I watch out for her. And I save her papers for last.
When a student says Would you read this? they often mean, Did I understand the assignment? But sometimes they’re saying, How can I make this better? When a student asks this latter question, she has become a real writer. And this was the moment I saw Stefania Escoz for the first time. Would you read this? she said, handing me a laptop with this exquisite self-portrait—a picture so heartbreakingly vivid and raw that I was right there with her. In this piece, she has accomplished the complicated act of giving us her real self, of asking the world to see her for who she really is. Listen carefully—this kind of writing is rare indeed.
WITS Writer Michael Overa introduces Camryn Soo
Camryn’s story, “If Each Star Were a Candle,” is the type of story that I wish I had been capable of writing in 7th grade. The story shows Camryn’s empathy, and clearly demonstrates her ability to create characters based on her own experience. I was thrilled to hear that Camryn has continued write creatively since we worked together in the Fall of this year – and I’m eager to see what she writes next. As you listen to her story, I’m sure you’ll be stricken, as I was, by the careful and insightful description of her two main characters: Mavis and Holly.
WITS Writer Jeanine Walker introduces Jade Knight
A 9th grader at Nathan Hale High School—told me she’s into third eyes, art that represents perception beyond ordinary sight. Reading her poetry, I can see why: she writes with an honesty that is extra-sensory, precise, detailed, and real. Jade was the student who sat, making eye contact, leaned slightly forward, as I began class, sometimes having to work to get the attention of the other students. Jade was present, something I greatly appreciated as a visiting poet in a 9th grade class the two sunny weeks before spring break. She first got my attention with her “Where I’m From” poem, and when she wrote this poem, “An Artist Instructed,” I asked her immediately to be a reader tonight. I knew I wanted her to have an audience bigger than just me. Founder of Nathan Hale’s Black Lives Matter club, Jade is an activist with the unique ability to live with her eyes wide open. She sees, she accepts, she pushes back, she writes. It’s my honor to introduce to you Jade Knight.
WITS Writer Sierra Nelson introduces Zachary Forrester
When Zach Forrester writes, it is a force. He closes his eyes, he looks in the distance, he is pulling the poem simultaneously from deep within himself and all he has experienced, and from somewhere else, a greater vision. Zach says, “Sometimes I write just to get things out, but not poems. Poetry is something I have to do. It is real to my life.”
When we worked on the poem you’ll hear tonight, there were certain words he really wanted to emphasize, and in his mind he saw them as distinct colors. Such as:
Red for Fight
Purple for Stronger
Yellow for Pain
Pink for Proud
Orange for Bedazzling
So as you hear the poem tonight, try imagining the colors bursting out from the words. Zach says, “The colors are me – I’m not dull!”
Unfortunately, Zach didn’t feel well enough to be able to read here in person tonight, so it is my honor to read his poem on his behalf. You can also spend time with his poem on display here as part of the Letterpress Broadside project.
I saw Zach earlier today and he gave me some tips on how to read his poem as he would read it. He said, “Just put passion into it. Start slow, and it might even feel a little sad, but it should build until it feels like ‘This is it!’ and a great power.” He also wanted me to tell you that this poem goes out especially to all the teens who are listening. He says: “This was made for you. And you are not alone.”
WITS Writer Ann Teplick introduces Hailey Truman and Megan Branum
I am very excited to introduce you to Hailey Truman. Hailey and I have written together twice at Seattle Children’s Hospital. From the beginning, I took note of Hailey’s use of imagery. Images of anger that tastes like boiling water; laughter that is pale pink like an orchid; and hope, with the scent of a carnival—a beautiful collage of synesthesia. The poem she will read tonight, “My input on Hospitalization” was chosen this year, from many poems at Seattle Children’s Hospital, to be made into a letterpress broadside. Again, the imagery is inventive and memorable. Please welcome Hailey Truman.
Megan Branum and I have written together many times at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Each session feels like a party. We seem to get louder and goofier, but no one has ever stopped us. Over the years Megan has written about ducks, robots, psychic pandas, and self-portrait poems that link every part of her to a specific candy. In one of these poems she says “My neck is like a wax bottle filled with blue raspberry juice.” Tonight she will read the poem “What Megan Means to Me,” where you will definitely get a sense of her continued love for sweets.
Check out the introductions from the first night here. Thank you to our writers-in-residence for all that you do!