by NaBeela Washington
We had the pleasure of catching up with Angeliki Vassilatos, Kara Kowalski, and Kyla Pollard, a few student authors of 826CHI’s fan favorite, I Will Hold You Like a Bible. This popular collection of poems and stories explores themes of identity, relationships, and the world as the authors see it. Authors drew inspiration from a variety of writers throughout their time in the Teen Writers Studio (TWS) program, like Danez Smith, Hanif Abdurraqib, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Chicago authors Britt Julious and Megan Stielstra.
Angeliki Vassilatos author of "There Is a Garden on the Roof" and "Viridescent" was “just a freshman in high school when we published the collection”, Vassilatos shared. Now a senior, she has become more engaged in local activism. “I'm currently working on college applications, and I've gained a clearer perspective on who I am and who I want to be. Being a part of 826CHI and TWS for the entirety of high school has kept me writing, even though it's easy to lose time to write when you have homework and extracurriculars. It's been an incredibly positive experience to be able to participate in this. Teenagers have a lot to say!”
Vassilatos’s favorite poem from I Will Hold You Like a Bible is "Survival Guide," by Stella R.
Kara Kowalski, author of "2018 BABY FAT" and "Blue Eyes" is currently a sophomore at Northwestern University studying English. Kowalski had the pleasure of interning at 826CHI this past summer as a Program Recruitment Intern. “This year I am interning remotely at The Chicago Poetry Center to continue my engagement with the Chicago literary community—which has played an integral role in my life as a writer and a young adult learning and discovering new things about my city.” She also manages her own blog, accordingtokara.org, where she explores and details her interests in sustainable living.
“My time at 826CHI taught me to value my thoughts and trust my voice. There is something so powerful about a community of young writers. I feel that that experience fueled my confidence in not only my writing but also in myself, as a person worth sharing her story. I hope that readers can take away the power of young voices. I am continually in awe of the work of my peers. Further, this collection speaks to the multiplicity of the young adult experience.”
Kowalski’s favorite poem from I Will Hold You Like a Bible is Kyla Pollard’s "Ode to Evicted Lovers”. “Her command of language never fails to amaze me. Kyla's ability to evoke empathy and deep emotional response is incredible!”
Kyla Pollard, author of “After Danez Smith’s Genessissy” began school at the University of Wisconsin- Madison as a First Wave scholar “where I explore activism through an art lense”, Pollard shared. “I’ve taught, “A Glorious Poetic Rage”, a Teen writer’s camp for 826CHI, began writing music, and I’m working on a clothing line. Being a part of 826CHI allowed me to grow confidence in my writing; it pushed me to apply for the scholarship program that I’m in currently, and it opened my eyes to various writing styles.” Pollard wants readers to know that stories like hers exist and that it is important to pay attention to the lenses through which youth view the world.
When asked about her favorite poem in I Will Hold You Like a Bible, Pollard replied, “I can’t pick just one! The book was comprised of so much talent!”
Enjoy the collection for yourself or return the favor and gift it to a loved one here.