Letters To A Young Poetess
By Gabriella Calabia & Kiki Tom
Inspired by Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet, “Letters To A Young Poetess” is the feminized and updated homage by Kiki Tom and Gabriella Calabia. Beginning a written correspondence upon being paired as mentor and mentee, the two delve into sharing thoughts, questions and feelings about writing and what it takes to share one’s voice. The following are excerpts.
Dec. 23, 2020
…When I don’t believe in myself, you do. The compliments have crept inside and I’m beginning to see the good in my writing. Wanting to edit, revise and ultimately send out my work perfectly into the world is always present, but now, for the first time, I don’t instantly hate it.
…Also, I keep thinking about what you said in our last session—when I’m not writing, I’m pre-writing. At school, we have to measure words on a page, check boxes and have tangible proofs of completion. Yet, writing is an act and there is more behind the page than what appears. I know many professions think they never leave their job, with it seeping into all aspects of being, but writing is life itself.
In the conventional world, deadlines exist and I can’t dawdle. However, I’m finding the value in pausing. I’m actively doing something when refusing to do anything else, if only to observe. It’s hard to be an artist in this 21st century and with the future approaching faster, in this day of instant broadcasts of every detail of one’s life, comparing myself is inevitable. It makes me want to run to the dwindling woods even more. How do I balance?
Today is the last day of school before winter break. I’m halfway through my junior year. My classmates often speak of the stress from their parents, but me, all the expectations are from inside. I know so much, but nothing at all. I’m scared of abandoning what I’ve built and leaving for a new environment. I live in extremes too: wanting to leave for college tomorrow and never wanting that day to come.
High school drama, I have no interest. It seems superficial. I often feel isolated from my peers, with their mundane interest in recounting a single moment over and over, analyzing the most miniscule of actions. Am I missing out? I always thought I was normal, to be on a quest for satisfaction and greatness—not ego-driven, but a thirst for exploring, learning and never stopping. When I do get to the end, I want to know I’ve done it all. What is enough though? How will I know I’ve made an impact?
Dec. 29, 2020
… Life is constant and you have a say in how you feel every second of it, but you don’t have to report it until there is relevancy. I think the point my friend/mentor, William Packard, made by saying there is no such thing as writer’s block, only pre-writing is that being a writer also means being a person and feeling life happening to you. If you try too hard, it’ll come out trite.
Add the Hemingway quote I told you when we met, “The first draft of anything is shit,” and that is practically everything you need to know to go at it.
Also, my story from memory lane was essential in building belief in myself, which is part of distinguishing the “right and wrong” of writing. It takes time, experience and practice to know yourself and stand by what represents you. The voices of what you think should be written can always haunt, but integrity in your work to be what it wants to be is the bottom line and when you can recognize that, you will understand your own “right and wrong” to your writing. Believing you’re a good writer, or not, is merely a reflection of your opinion of yourself.
You travelled this route working on your memoir piece and picked up cues of your process on the way. As a mentor, I can tell you what to look for in the flow and encourage that. The rest is up to you. The more confidence you have, the more conviction will show up in your work. Owning it isn’t pompous, because it always takes work to create something compelling, but it separates writing as a passion versus an ego trip.
As for your impact, that isn’t up for you to decide. Being part of this world, reaching out, trying new things and expressing yourself, you inherently create energy that reverberates out. You’re more than one word, one piece or one act and your effect is real. Plus, your enthusiasm, dedication and passion for learning ups the greatness paved onto your path and I know more incredible things will come of you. Your writing touches me and you revived my love of writing, putting me back in touch with the raw emotion of discovering words, poetry and inspiration. Remember, without you, these letters would cease to exist and that would be absolutely tragic.
Don’t Make Me Faint,
Beginning as Kiki and Gabriella’s introduction to each other, “Letters to A Young Poetess” has become the written half of their relationship. As Gabriella comes of age in a pandemic-ridden, socially distanced world, she expresses her uncertainty and fears about growing up, finding her identity, and being a writer. Kiki looks back on her own experiences, sharing all that she has learned and all she continues to question, offering endless guidance and support. Together, they explore everything from horoscopes to hormones, recipes to race, family to forgiveness, and the journey of two poetesses in adolescence and adulthood.
Gabriella was born in Basel, Switzerland and spent her early childhood traveling throughout Eurasia before ultimately moving to New York City with her family. Her award-winning poems have been conceived on midnight road trips, cross country train rides and the back of her calculus notes.
Kiki T. is a writer, columnist and author that is born and bred in NYC. Driven by curiosity, Kiki has written about every subject under the sun, including: fashion, movies, music, art, history, etc. However, her claim to fame comes from editing a website for teen girls (Planet Kiki—a SXSW Winner!) and astrology—the basis of her two books: Angst: Teen Verses From The Edge and The Celestial Sexpot's Handbook. Kiki's resume also includes columns and articles for: Teen Vogue, NY Post Page Six Magazine, JANE, Girlfriend (Australian Teen Mag), Scarlet UK, Lifetimetv, TheFrisky.com, Astrology.com, etc.Media appearances include webseries LookTV.com and LifetimeTV.com and appearances on Tyra, Mike and Juliet show & NBC's The Daily Connection.