June 18, 2013
Angelique LaCour, OVN correspondent
A group of teens that call themselves the “Monday Misfits” lined the long bench along the wall of the Bohemia coffee house last Monday. They cast uneasy glances at the performance space where a microphone was set up in front of three rows of empty chairs while waiting for their first poetry reading event to start.
Aaron Gardner, director of Building Lives Inc.’s weekly poetry writing workshop, stepped up to the microphone and read a poem from a collection passed down to him by his great-great-grandfather.
“The sentiment from this poem, ‘Weep Not For Youth,’ written by Betty Knowles’ in 1919, is still alive now,” Gardner said. Particularly poignant are the lines, “Weep not for youth. We may be right — who knows how worlds may alter in our strong young hands? And if a burning zeal within us glows, be patient while we seek our promised lands.”
After reading the poem, Gardner said, “If you’re a kid, that’s for you, and if you’re not a kid, that’s also for you.”
“Some people think you’re supposed to snap your fingers after a poet reads, but I think that’s dumb,” Gardner said. “So when somebody reads, and you feel it, which you will, I promise you, I much prefer wild applause.”
The Monday Misfits then courageously read heart-wrenching, angst-ridden poems they had written under Gardner’s guidance at his weekly writing workshops.
The power of the words speak for themselves.
“I gotta pull through because you … you didn’t pull through; Four years this June it would’ve been; What happened that night, when did the falling begin?” (“In June,” Isaac Arquilevich, 17)
“Don’t kiss a boy with a bad reputation; Tell the kids everything’s fine; Pretend you’re the sole survivor of the Apocalypse and the planet’s last hope; Don’t wear heels with that dress; Pretend pain is just an idea.” (“Stay Alive,” Kayla Boutlinghouse, 16)
“It seems a pattern as I cry day and night; Unable to soar, unable to take flight; This is my hedonism, my way of life; I am the anthropologist digging with a knife.” (Untitled, Quentin Kyle Fancher, 16)
“I’m the fire that burns all around carelessly, you’re the whatever, the majority; Even with two eyes wide open you still can’t see; Try putting the triangle in the square hole, that’s what it’s like to be me.” (Untitled, Daniel Garcia, 18)
“When my trigger’s been pulled I remember the look on her face, the pain, despair, shock and anger; So how can it be that I killed her when it was her that pulled my trigger; I’m just a gun made of cold hard metal.” (“Cold Hard Metal,” Allie White, 19)
“I’ve fallen in love with the notion of draping my skin in vulnerability, can only result in a lack of love interest … my bathing suit just doesn’t seem to fit right, especially in comparison to my knit sweater.” (Untitled, Kelsie Prock, 18)
“The perks of being a cloud would only be an empty escape, just like the drugs I couldn’t wait to take; No one can touch you when you’re a cloud, like swirling cigarette smoke getting in your eyes and on your clothes, a hovering shroud of gray and white casting shadows around.” (Untitled, Marc Hoeppel, 18)
“Every day is just another day, every sigh a lifetime, every hope a breath, every ounce of happiness a reminder of the past before there was pain.” (Untitled, Serene Fairbanks, 16)
“Look who it is. Your digital siren song pierces my cerebellum. Is it my cerebellum? Maybe if I’d been studying and not texting you I would know.” (Untitled, Holden Arquilevich, 15)
“They say your heart is the most fragile muscle in the human body; I would say a beautiful heart is on its side, level with this opinion.” (Paige Wiggins, 19)
“I am not the failure, I am the result. I am the result of everything you’ve done. You dug a grave for me before I was even born, before you knew I didn’t want to be buried when I died. I am Atlas Dickenson, holding up your world on my shoulders, and I am still standing.” (Untitled, Amanda Dickenson, 19)
When it was over, the Misfits were exuberant and their mentor was beaming. “Maybe we should do a Kickstarter campaign and put out a publication of real poetry,” Gardener said.
Gabriel Arquilevich was in the small audience supporting his two sons, Isaac and Holden. He praised the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation for making BLinc available for kids who don’t necessarily fit in with the mainstream.
“The leadership starting with Meg last year and now Suzanne and Aaron has been extraordinary,” Arquilevich said. “Our two boys look forward to the workshops each week. We never have to ask if they want to go, they just go on their own. It’s a sense of hope for them. It allows them their own world, and it’s a safe world where they are accepted and get to express themselves.”