Natalia Gorecki (16) currently attends William Fremd High School. She likes playing both the viola and with her dogs. She is always trying to put words in the right order to make people feel something.
The Sea and Teenage Love
I am young and stupid
Drunk on it, dripping in it
Swimming through life with eyes open
Stinging from the sight of you
My lungs ache for you as if I am tethered to
The bottom of the sea
I am lost in your deep blue
My hands ache for you like the sea aches
For the shore
Hands washing over hands neck arms legs
Bits of our seaglass bodies
Sometimes Teenagers are a Different Species
I didn’t just forget my name
For a moment I forgot I was human, even
I stood crying out in the park, to the birds, bare feet planted in the clay
Waiting for the snow, tangled in adolescent sky
I burned like waking up
A Conversation between Natalia Gorecki and Courtney Felle
1. Hi, Natalia, thanks for talking with us today! Both these poems share a short, punchy aesthetic. As Maheen described, “The words have a great texture to them; they’re chewy and fun to read.” How does this style differ from traditional or longer writing?
Thanks so much for the opportunity! This shorter style of writing makes it so that every word counts. Every word choice has to be intentional and add something to the poem, meaning or feeling. The words have to have a lot of punch to them for someone to get wrapped up in a moment in such a short form. The shortness of the poems means that the writer has to capture the essence of what they mean, and I love that challenge.
2. “The Sea and Teenage Love” compares how “My hands ache for you like the sea aches / For the shore,” an image that’s existed throughout poetry and art, but makes it into something new, individual, decisively teen. How do you navigate using imagery, and exploring the benefits and dangers of “cliché,” in your work?
I enjoy writing poems with a base in imagery, because I believe grounding the reader in something physical allows them to connect with your meaning that much more. Using sensory words places the reader in the landscape you create. I think cliché can be a powerful communication tool, since people already know what you mean. The challenge lies in subverting their form of meaning, making them something unique to you.
3. These poems have a soft but strong attention to language. In “The Sea and Teenage Love,” there’s a repeated sibilance in “stupid,” “swimming,” “stinging,” and “sight,” punctuated by the paired “drunk” and “dripping.” In “Sometimes Teenagers are a Different Species,” there’s a progression from “park” and “birds” to “bare feet planted,” a similar extension of sound. How do you create moments like this? What are their effects on the overall poems?
When writing “Sometimes Teenagers are a Different Species” I focused on words that just sounded good together, and shaped a memory out of that. When I write, I try to take the most essential details out of my subject, event, or memory. I use those as a skeleton and make sure they shine. I use words with a strong feeling, physical or emotional, to capture the reader. I find that when a poem or piece of writing uses strong sensory words, everything around me falls away as I read, and that’s my goal with my writing.
4. You play with enjambment and line length as well, shifting how the poems ebb and flow. In “The Sea and Teenage Love,” I especially liked the break in “My hands ache for you like the sea aches / For the shore,” that subtle pause before the continued explanation. In “Sometimes Teenagers are a Different Species,” the lines grow through the beginning half of the poem then shrink through the end, like a bubble expanding and receding. What role do line breaks and structure have in developing a poem’s content? How is this unique for short poetry?
Line breaks play an important part in the meaning of a poem, in that the reader tends to fill in the blank before the poem does. Sometimes the poem surprises them, and sometimes it leads them to the answer in the next line. Structure allows for gaps in thought, letting the reader ponder your meaning. In short poetry, structure is all the more noticeable, and plays a part in rhythm. In “Sometimes Teenagers are a Different Species” my intention was to create a specific moment in time to get lost in. The form I used created a sort of beginning, middle, and end to the scene. A short opening, a barrage of details in the middle, flashes of a memory, and finally a sudden closing line to end the scene. Whether your intention is to create suspense by using a stilted rhythm, a sense of calm through a steady rhythm, or a sense of frenzy by using short lines, these can all be achieved through modifying structure.
5. Both Maheen and I absolutely loved the final line of “Sometimes Teenagers are a Different Species.” There’s something sharp about burning “like waking up” while standing outside, “waiting for the snow.” It’s a gain and a loss at once, and one so distinct to teenage life. Where did this line begin? How do you know when and where to end a poem?
This line stems from the feeling of existing as you are in a single moment, becoming aware of that. Not recognizing yourself before and not knowing where you’re going. The early morning acute awareness of your existence. The moment right when you wake up when you are jolted back into the world and the sunlight hits you. Teenagers experience this often, because we’re in a transitional period. We become aware that we are becoming someone who is different than the image we have in our heads. When ending a poem, I try to craft a line that resolves the poem mostly, while leaving some room for wondering. I try not to overwork a poem, and instead focus on what I want it to mean, and infuse that meaning into the final line.
6. These poems live inside moments, capturing this overwhelming, immediate feeling of being “young and stupid,” or “tangled in adolescent sky.” Though particular to these speakers, they’re also experiences across teenage lives. How do you balance the personal and general in your writing? How do you want readers to relate to the emotions in your poems?
I find that many things we think are personal are really common experiences, and by sharing these everybody feels less alone. I want readers to read my writing and know that they are not alone. Everyone goes through hurt, and happiness, and change whether they like it or not. That’s part of being human, and that’s what I’m trying to capture in my writing; exactly how awful and wonderful it is to be human.
7. What does it mean to you to be not only a teen writer but a writer exploring teenage life so explicitly?
Being a teen writer is best described as weird. There are moments when I still feel very much like a kid, and moments I feel more adult. I’m shocked when anybody takes my writing seriously, but I’m still proud of it. It’s a very contradictory experience. Exploring teen life the way I do is almost like writing an open diary. I’m actively going through these things I write about, and putting it all out there is frightening because I myself am still processing the events, but then I ask others to consider them from their points of view. I constantly have to remind myself that teenagers have been going through the same things for years and years and I’m certainly not alone. Everyone just thinks they’re alone. Teenagers are a little self-centered like that.
8. What are your hopes for your writing, over the next few years and longer-term?
In the next few years I’d like to invest more time into my writing and really educate myself on techniques and different forms. Thus far, my writing has mostly been word vomit that I then edit a few times until I think it’s pretty okay. Long-term, I’d love to be able to call myself a writer in the professional sense. My dream is to be able to drive myself down to a bookstore and see a poetry book with my name on it, and know that people care enough to read the words I’ve written. I’d love to be the writer that inspires someone else to start putting their feelings on paper.