The Unlikely Poet

By Holden Harris

unnamedIf someone ever told me I would become a poet, I would have laughed at that improbable suggestion. However my strict path to create machines and robots detoured a bit when I attended the LEAD Computer Science summer program. My teacher saw something in me I hadn’t recognized. Her head tilted and she raised her eyebrows at the sight of my coding in a programing assignment.

“Is there something wrong?” I asked


“Why do you have that look on your face?”

“I’m trying to understand…”

“Is it too complicated? Did I leave out any detail?”

“Calm down. Nothing is wrong with your code. You went about this differently than everyone else. Yours is actually shorter.”

“So did I do the programming wrong?”

“No, I just never thought of writing it this way. This is really good. Good job.”

She not only saw my code; she saw me–that unique me. I so often reflected my creative side through technology. However a moment came when I couldn’t recognize myself in the mirror. The stresses of junior year burdened me–falling in love with the wrong person, and later, dating someone I didn’t like. I couldn’t see the difference between true and fake friends. On weekends, I isolated myself in my room, avoiding the outside world. Then I found something that re-sparked my energetic self: poetry.

Buddy Wakefield changed my perception of poetry. I watched a video of his performance in a literature class. Wakefield’s poetry inspired me. I wanted to start writing. I felt thrusted into his moment. I felt the weight of his arms, his voice vibrated in my throat, and his smile made my lips crack. I was in his shoes. He inspired me to write.

My journal became my portable memory bank. I stopped carrying my anxieties and put them on paper. I found hope, writing every day. A friend invited me to join the  “Independent Writers Coalition,” a group of kids at school sharing written work. This scared me. Was I even an “independent writer?” I had only been writing for a week. But ultimately, I reasoned that going couldn’t hurt.

In my first session, we read poems and discussed them. It’s astonishing how an activity so simple can be so revealing. I explored my own mind through this process. From that point, my dedication to the club was permanent.

The club’s advisor approached me about a poetry reading. This literally, not figuratively, made my heart stop for a couple seconds. The encouragement of club members gave me the courage to face my fears. I accepted the offer.

On the big day– rocks in my stomach, pain in my heart, and sweat down my back; the seconds ticked, poets read, and it was finally my turn. The walk to the podium was endless; my knees shook so much I sat down before reading. I took a final breath and began:

As you’re walking on the muddy road carrying the weight of your emotions, personal objects, and relationships, you begin to sink into the mud. You’re carrying too much. There is a choice to be made. Drop some objects or be consumed, suffocating in its deathly thickness. Some Things weigh more than others and are harder to let go. In order to escape the dark, cold, unwelcoming, things need to be dropped, even if they are close to your heart. Drop it and you will rise again, withering the pain, but be prepared to do it again when the time comes.

I had feared people would judge me, hate me, and reject me. At this moment, the crowd accepted me for who I was. I smiled hard and long, making my face muscles burn with pain. So this is how it feels to be an “independent writer.” Now I am on the path for a future in technology and poetry. Miss Miller, my technology teacher, was definitely onto something.

Holden Harris, a 2016 graduate of Grace Church School, is a freshman at Dartmouth.

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