One of the online literary journals I love most, The Blue Pencil Online, is edited and produced by high school students and publishes the writing of people who are 12-18 years old. The students of the Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick, Massachusetts pride themselves on publishing the best fiction, poetry, and nonfiction written by teenagers from around the world. Reading their issues always impresses and heartens me—not only because the quality of the writing is so good, but also because The Blue Pencil Online serves such an important role in the lives of those who edit it and those who are published there.
They also have a storied past. Long before it was an online journal, The Blue Pencil was edited by Elizabeth Bishop, who was a student at Walnut Hill from 1927-1930. In her honor, the magazine gives its annual Elizabeth Bishop Prize to the writers of the best fiction and poetry submissions from the past year. This prize is a $3000 full tuition scholarship to the Walnut Hill Summer Writing Program.
Having taught high school poets in the UVA Young Writers Workshop, I know how eager they are to be taken seriously as writers and to have a distinguished forum for publishing their work. I can’t help but think back at my own teenage self and wonder at how important places like TBPO (and the UVA YWW) would have been to me.
I’ll leave you with this gem of an ending from “1959,” a poem by this year’s Elizabeth Bishop Prize winner in poetry, Ian Burnett: “perhaps he knew the South / was going out like a filament and / was afraid to / let himself burn with it.”
*Throughout Poetry Month 32 Poems will use this space to praise presses, journals, and readings series that bring poetry to us in a special way. Our hope is that we can point new fans in their direction and publicly thank editors and curators for their work. Check in with us again tomorrow for another poet’s recommendation.
Lilah Hegnauer is the author of Dark Under Kiganda Stars (Ausable Press 2005). She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she teaches poetry and American literature at James Madison and UVA. She is the 2013 Amy Clampitt resident in Lenox, MA.