I was lucky enough to be born into a literary family. My father was a journal editor, my mother is an avid reader, and my entire extended family on my mother’s side were all book lovers and constant library goers. Bookshelves were everywhere in the house I grew up in Edmonds, Washington. Also, when I visited my grandparents in Chicago, each wall had its own bookshelf, and my grandfather encouraged me to choose any volume I wanted. This atmosphere was key to turning me towards writing.
At 11 years old, I was at a church camp, and there was a talent show. I decided that I wanted to write a poem and read it at the event. Even at a tender age, I thought of myself as a philosopher and wanted to express my thoughts. Of course, one’s first poem is special but also awful. I remember writing about a philosophical notion of mine in flowery language and that the audience enjoyed me reading it at the talent show. However, I was lucky to grow out of this overexplaining phase in poetry.
From this first poem, I wrote more compositions occasionally in notebooks, but I did not think of myself as a serious poet. When I had inspiration or was going through something painful, I noted down a poem. However, during this period, I gradually started to write more and more. I understood in school that I was not so interested in other classes besides English. So, even by the age of 15 or 16, I knew that I wanted to be a writer.
I started to get bad grades in high school. Feeling depressed and despondent, I did not have much motivation for achieving good marks. My mother sent me to live with my father in order for him to discipline me. My parents were divorced and visited him every other weekend. But when I started living with him, I began to read a lot more—especially poetry. One form that caught my attention was the haiku. My father was well-known in the “haiku world,” and it helped to see his enthusiasm for the form, as this translated into me wanting to write them myself. I began to compose many haiku while living with my father, in addition to writing lyrical poems on occasion. The first poetry journal I submitted to was Frogpond, the official journal of the American Haiku Association. I got rejected, but it was still a step forward in my mind.
A major turning point in my life and in my creativity was when my father died when I was 18 years old. I was shocked at his sudden death that I wrote many poems each day as therapy. I started to collect all the poems I had written in my life at this point, and it was over 1,000. I was surprised and submitted my compositions to journals, books, and magazines, with some luck in getting them published. In my first two years of college, I took tons of literature classes to grow as a poet and to become familiar with the classics.
In my last two years of my bachelor’s degree at The Evergreen State College, I put together my first serious book manuscript of poems. All of the compositions, the cover art, and the arrangement was done in about three months since it was for a course. The poems were composed by way of automatic prose writing and then selecting my favorite parts of my rambling. My professor gave me great marks and even went so far as to say I would be a famous poet. The cherry on the cake was that my poetry was getting published more often as well in journals.
After putting together several other book manuscripts of lyrical poetry and never being fully satisfied with them—plus writing smaller and smaller compositions—I gradually become more interested in haiku. Through the mentorship of Michael Dylan Welch, a friend of my father’s and a well-known poet, I began to dive into the “haiku world.” I submitted to Frogpond—the journal I sent my first batch of haiku to when I was 16 years old—and got accepted. This was a wake-up call to me. It is one of the premier journals of haiku in the world, and getting accepted into it made me realize that haiku was possibly my niche. After this initial success, I continued to write haiku daily and submit to journals almost every week. After a few years of this, I became an award-winning poet, a host of a popular blog on haiku, and a mentor for budding writers.
After achieving great results with haiku and reaching my goals, I started to get into a lull. I lost a lot of motivation and passion. In light of this, I started to concentrate on lyrical poetry and songwriting more. Though now I still write a few haiku every week and publish posts on my blog for this genre regularly, my attention has turned more towards my earlier interests in poetry.
This progression has proven to me that pain, determination, and motivation all play a part in a poet’s journey. The pain from my father’s passing, the determination to prove myself as a writer, and the motivation to do what I truly love have pushed me to publish hundreds of poems and win awards in this field.