Last week, I finally received my Kirkus Review back from my publishers at Archway. Now, you may be asking who Kirkus is… I’ve got an answer for you. They are a well-known magazine for book discovery, founded back in 1933. They review books, as well as give several other literary services, with a certain merit that is highly regarded in the literary world. That being said, I have finally received my review from this prestigious name, and I must say, I am excited to see that my writing has become something larger than the thoughts within my own mind put to paper. In their words, some of my poems hold “sharp and subtle perception” while others may be “evocative.” Reading this review was like receiving a graded paper back from my Lit teacher with suggestions for revision scattered among words of praise; it is humbling and surprisingly motivating for me to keep going, to keep creating, and to keep finding a way to make this journey larger than I am. I was thinking all of this while reading the review, until my eyes ran over one sentence that had me re-reading it to make sure I had read it right. That’s when I had to think Ah, and there’s the constructive criticism. The not-so-praising words.
[Some of Williams’ revelations seem a bit simplistic for today’s world-wise teens, like “People Matter,” which begins: “There’s only one person anyone can be. / Only you can be you, and I can be me.”]
After reading this sentence, (about five times, possibly more), I was reminded that my book is titled Live, Laugh, Love, Like a Teenager. Looking back, this does not simply encompass the sixteen to nineteen year olds… It means the entirety of teenage years, including age thirteen because consequently, that is when I wrote that particular poem. Reflecting on it, for a thirteen year old in 2011, a seventh grader just beginning to explore the art of poetry, I think it was a good kind of simple. The kind that offered more to that “subtle perception” or “evocative” expression that Kirkus mentioned. And because of that, I have a few other insights for it in addition to “simplistic.”
How about exploratory, or creative, or even self-expressive? Because this review is on the dot, some of those poems are very simple and even childish compared to others. Especially considering it was not all written at the age I am now. But I also think that Kirkus points out one thing vital to my anthology’s meaning: that is partly what this book was about in the first place. My book contains poems by a thirteen year old as well as by an eighteen year old because that’s what it’s about: Growing up. To a middle schooler surrounded by other people trying to figure out who they are and the people they want to be, it was monumental for me to realize that the only person I could ever be was myself. As I get older, I learn something new every day, from the idea that maybe we are not defined by one thing in this world or that maybe it is okay to chase your dreams. This review is a reminder to me that my book holds a total of 73 different poems, each and every one a different day and different age of my life, containing countless moments that mean something more than what it was then.
In the end, sometimes it can be interesting to look back at the things we used to say or even the people we used to be, because it is all change in order to become the people we want to be. The childish thoughts and quiet moments are necessary for us to grow up and make them something more. My poem “People Matter” became this something more by stretching into one I wrote last year called “No Second Chance” about the danger of suicide and the fragility of human lives. After years of writing, I was able to take an idea I used to believe in and build it into one that I can now stand on as a foundation to who I am. After the fifth time reading that sentence above, I realized that maybe I am okay with simple. Because sometimes, that simple thought or early exploration of an art by a young teenager might be the first hesitant step towards a new path. If we’re lucky, that quiet interest in the unknown just might lead to the next Picasso, or broadway star, or even just a teenager ready to share those simple thoughts with the world.