Poetry is thriving here at Lawrence Academy.
This past summer, Maggie Eames ‘19 saw her work appear in three publications, while Annie Baron ‘17’s poem “Wonder” was selected as a winner in the Save the Earth Poetry Contest.
Now a junior, Maggie “was a poet coming in the door” when she arrived as a freshman, said English teacher Meghan Smith (who is currently pursuing her MFA in poetry through Vermont College), who had Eames as a student.
“We try to teach kids some poetry composition every year in each of the grades,” added English department chair Laura Moore (whose second book of poetry will be published by Kelsay Books this winter, a collection called “Using Your Words”).
Between the students’ work in the classroom, the poetry recitation and spoken word slams, and the literary magazine, “We do have a place for kids who have that particular passion, for sure.”
Maggie’s feature in WURD—an anthology published by a program run out of the Pratt Institute in New York—includes three poems and a short biography, in which she cites the poets Ocean Vuong, E. E. Cummings, and Sylvia Plath among her inspirations. Beneath the title of the first poem, “pendulum petals,” she notes that the poem was inspired by sculptor Alexander Calder’s Arc of Petals, a mobile display in the Guggenheim Museum.
“[It’s the] idea that the page has very little to do with straight lines, that the whole thing is a canvas,” Mrs. Smith described.
Many of Maggie’s poems speak to a connection between visual art and writing; in ‘pendulum petals,’ the poem’s form is one that reflects movement, with words spaced out, letters broken up, and lines appearing to sway back and forth across the page.
“I do think most of my poetry is influenced by other works of art,” said Maggie.
“At Pratt, we went to museums every Saturday and worked with students in other majors, so a lot of the pieces I wrote were inspired by a variety of visual arts pieces by students and at museums, [and] by other poems we read.”
In addition to her work with the Pratt Institute, Maggie attended the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Middlebury’s Bread Loaf School of English, where she took a class on conveying emotion through description.
“My instructor emphasized the importance of gaining inspiration from visual art,” said Eames. “If we want to effectively convey emotion in writing, visual art is a really strong place to start because we have to feel the emotion ourselves to write it.”
Maggie also saw her work published by American High School Poets: Inside My World, published by Live Poets Society of NJ, and Polyphony H.S., an international student-run literary magazine for high-school writers.
As for Annie Barron ’17, her poem “Wonder” was selected as one of the winners of the Save the Earth Poetry Contest.
When it comes to poetry, Annie is somewhat of a late bloomer.
“It was definitely a long process to get where I am today when it comes to my relationship with poetry,” she reflected. “I think when I first began exploring it in an academic setting during my freshman year, I thought it was super elusive, which intimidated me.
“I remember wishing it was more straightforward, and I definitely thought that writing fiction and short stories was easier because I could use more words to explain myself.”
So, what changed?
“I used to journal a lot, and I think in writing down everything I had to say in a book, I became more comfortable with using words to express emotions and things that I thought were beautiful,” she explained.
At LA, Annie found herself starting to explore writing in a more general way; gradually, her focus shifted.
“I don’t think I was truly comfortable with sharing my work until my junior year,” she admitted.
“Once I did start to share my work, I really felt supported by the LA English department; I felt like they were all trying to help me improve and become more comfortable, which was a major help for me when it came to exploring poetry.”
These days, now as a student at Lewis & Clark College, Annie says she writes more poetry than prose.
“It’s quite the opposite of what I was like during my freshman year of high school,” she said as she described the perspective she’s unearthed through developing her writing.
“Instead of being something that I try to avoid because of how elusive it is, I’ve come to appreciate and respect that kind of elusiveness in poetry because I also notice elusiveness in the world around me.”
“To me, it was a perfect fit.”