JSU English Students Edit Teen Literary Project


Students enrolled in Dr. Kimberly Southwick-Thompson's publishing practicum gain hands-on experience. Photo by Austin Tillison.

by Brett Buckner

Robert Frost described poetry as that moment when "an emotion has found its thought, and the thought has found words.” Thanks to JSU English students, teenage poets from around the world have a unique platform from which a boundless echo of words and thoughts is set free to inspire emotions in others.

Since 2015, the “Teen Sequins” online poetry project has served as an offshoot of the literary arts magazine “Gigantic Sequins,” giving selected poets, ages 14-18, a forum to showcase their works. Both publications became affiliated with JSU when Dr. Kimberly Southwick-Thompson, Assistant Professor of English, joined the faculty. Having founded “Gigantic Sequins” and served as its editor-in-chief for 13 years, she saw “Teen Sequins” as an opportunity to give the students in her publishing practicum class hands-on experience. 

“They are able to participate in a real-world publishing project and all of the emotions that come with putting something out into the real world,” she said. “It's one thing to turn something in for an assignment to one person. It's another to put it out there for the whole world to see.”

The students are responsible for reading submissions, selecting which poem will be featured each day online and maintaining contact with the writers. They have also redesigned the “Teen Sequins” portion of the “Gigantic Sequins” website. Though it's only published online, that distinction means little to the aspiring poets sharing their work.

"Just because it is published online, doesn't mean it is any less of a platform,” Southwick-Thompson said. “In fact, it likely reaches an extremely wide audience because of the way it is published and promoted online."

Previous teen poets have gone on to have their work featured in prominent literary journals like “Poetry" magazine.

“I'm so proud that ‘Teen Sequins’ has been one of their jumping off points for those careers in poetry,” Southwick-Thompson said. 

The idea for “Teen Sequins” came from Sophie Klahr, a former editor for “Gigantic Sequins.” In 2015, she and Robby Auld, one of her former students, began accepting poetry from teenagers all over the country. This year, Klahr turned it over to Southwick-Thompson’s publishing practicum class.  

One of “Teen Sequins” most recent featured poems is “A Sound Only Heard in Crowds,” by 14-year-old Yechan (Chloe) Lee, who is a rising freshman attending an international school in Korea. The following excerpt is published with permission from "Teen Sequins."

"A Sound Only Heard in Crowds," by Yechan Chloe Lee

“I like the sound of my own laughter, my own screams,

My own shouts alongside that of a crowd’s

As we dance via vapors of mindscapes,

Time’s jostle between us in loyal

“Following of the here, now—not when—of flow.

To be so unafraid, unhindered, a billowing

Mass of opportunity not curtailed by perfection,

Not hearing you rip my paper trail of wanderings,

“Telling me the hard-edge-certainty of news,

Shoving me into societal greed fervently

For constraint, for heartless murmurs, for

A change in a smile that isn’t my own …”