I'm a wrinkly - as most of you know. And I sit in writers' groups, go to open mic sessions, spend most of my writing life with people whose children (if they had them) are well past the nappy stage. We have been taught rules, dissect our words obediently.
And then along came Emily. Aged eighteen. With her scarlet lipstick and shoes-not-made-for-walking. She's a poet. I write that carefully - she's not just a young person who writes poetry. I wrote poetry in my teens and it was excruciating. She wears the word with panache. It is who she is. Her work is gutsy and honest and funny, rooted in the angst and energy of adolescence but without the whining. She delivers it with crisp diction, firing words that stick to you. The last line lingers - swims around the room somehow - and you want her to read the same poem over and over again until every little nuance is swimming too, but you know it won't be, there is always something more, a corner that is still to be explored.
I've no idea if anyone has tried to tame her, to work with rhyme scheme and form, to deconstruct line length. I hope not. Her talent is raw and wonderful and exciting.
There are few good reasons to live to be 130. But one of them is to live long enough to see how Emily discovers which paths to take. I want her to ignore the advice of crones like me; to carry on surprising us with the brutal honesty (and wit) with which she approaches her poetry. I have no doubt she has the ability to be successful (in the sense that her work will be widely read), but want her to remain rooted in the immediacy of her feelings and experiences. I want her to have plenty of Life, but not so much she drowns in it.
Am I envious - no. I've made my own choices. I've had plenty of Life. Rather - I love cheering her from the sidelines. It's a privilege, even to be peripheral (as I am), to her early efforts. Emily Harrison - remember that name.