The Youth Services department of the Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) is celebrating the publication of A Forest of Words: 2021 Whatcom County Teen Poetry Anthology.
A Forest of Words is an annual publication that includes poems from Whatcom County teens in 6th through 12th grades. WCLS invites students to submit their poetry to their local library or online from January through mid-March each year. Poems are then selected based on their strength, content and originality. This year’s selection committee included teen advisor Helena Somers and WCLS staff members Tamar Clarke, Nick Flerchinger and Cynthia French.
“What makes this year’s book so special is the number of young writers who participated for the first time,” says Tamar Clarke, WCLS teen services coordinator. “Submitting your work for publication where others can read it is an incredibly courageous thing to do, and we’re so happy that these writers dove in and shared their views of the world with us.”
The collection features work from a record-breaking 74 teen poets representing nine libraries, including Blaine, Deming, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden, North Fork, South Whatcom, Sumas and the Bellingham Public Library.
“Read individually, each poem tells a different story,” Clarke says. “There are poems that reflect on identity and faith, of being trapped in a turbulent, tumultuous world, of love and loss. There are fantastic tales in the form of elephants floating in space, and stories about families, including sisters and brothers, one of whom is inexplicitly glued to the ceiling. Read as a whole, this collection is a window into the incredibly insightful, oftentimes delight-filled, world of young writers. In just a few words, these poets say so much.”
This is the 11th year that WCLS has published A Forest of Words. The cover art is by teen artist Siena Stiles. Titled “Thoughts,” the artwork reflects themes found in the anthology. Stiles’ art was originally published in the library system’s teen art publication, Whatcomics (2020).
Each contributing poet receives a copy of the anthology. The public may borrow A Forest of Words from any WCLS branch or read a digital copy at the WCLS website, wcls.org/a-forest-of-words.
“I encourage everyone to pick up a copy at their local library or look at it online. These are poems of distinction and power, of insight and raw emotion, that are not to be missed,” Clarke adds.
For teens who would like to get a head start on writing poems for next year’s edition of A Forest of Words, WCLS is offering a week-long Writers’ Camp for grades 6–12. The camp takes place online, July 12–16 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Registration is required and space is limited. Interested teens can register for free at wcls.org/happenings.