Welcome to the first installment of PS, Junior Voices—an ongoing series of interviews with local writers and artists. On May 11, at the Philadelphia Stories, Junior spring/summer release party at the Musehouse in Chestnut Hill, program director Stephanie Scordia got a chance to sit down with Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate Siduri Beckman, 15, to ask a few questions about her writing process, what it’s like being the city’s first youth poet laureate, and what items she’d want to have with her on a desert island.
Philadelphia Stories, Junior: When did you start writing poetry?
Siduri Beckman: In first grade, we had a poetry unit, and it was a lot of short rhyme schemes.
PSJ: Do you remember your first poem?
SB: No, it was something about a cat being fat… It was a great moment when I found out my poetry didn’t have to rhyme, and most of my poetry doesn’t rhyme at all.
PSJ: How long has it been since you wrote your most recent poem?
SB: About two hours.
PSJ: Wow. You must be writing all the time! Could you talk a bit about your writing process?
SB: Usually, I’ll write three warm-up poems, and then I’ll write one I’d want to present to somebody. And then I’ll leave that poem, and I’ll come back to it later, and I’ll reread it out loud. Then I’ll read it to my sister. And then I’ll read it to my mom.
PSJ: So, your sister and mom are your first audience? Do they offer feedback?
SB: Yeah, my mom more than my sister. My sister is the first initial support.
PSJ: Is she a writer, too?
SB: Yeah, she likes writing fiction.
PSJ: Who are some poets or writers you enjoy?
PSJ: Where do you draw your inspiration?
SB: In everyday things that happen to me, or things I hear about, or things I make up. Usually, I do a lot of portrait poems, so I do portraits of people I know.
PSJ: How did you first hear about the Youth Poet Laureate competition?
SB: My English teacher told me about it. He promised that anyone who [won] would get four As on any assignments they wanted, but as soon as I got it, he revoked it! (Laughs)
PSJ: What was your reaction when you were told you won?
SB: I was checking my e-mail, and I had to read it again. I was like, “Oh my God!” then I ran downstairs and told my mom.
PSJ: What’s the most exciting thing you’ve done so far as the city’s first youth poet laureate?
SB: I love teaching classes, so I’ve gone to different schools and taught classes, but probably the most exciting thing has been going with Sonia Sanchez to read and being interviewed by FOX 29 News.
PSJ: What advice would you offer to young writers?
SB: To not give up, to keep writing poetry, and to read poetry if you want to write poetry.
PSJ: What are your plans for the future?
SB: I want to go to Princeton and then Yale Law School and eventually serve on the Supreme Court.
PSJ: Wow. I have no doubt you will achieve those goals! Do you have a favorite movie?
SB: I love movies, so this is difficult. I love Thelma and Louise. I also love Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club—all of those 80s teen movies.
PSJ: If you were stuck on a deserted island, what are three things (not people or pets) that you’d want to have with you?
SB: Unending supply of paper, ink, and a pen.
PSJ: The Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti said, “Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone.” Finish the thought: “Poetry is….”
SB: …the rawest form of expression that we have.
Click here for photos of the PS, Junior release party and check out our YouTube channel for video of Siduri Beckman reading her work. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter @PhilaStoriesJr!