Since she was young Shelley Polanco has loved to write. Today, the Morrisania resident and freshman at Brandeis University is celebrating her poetry appearing in a national publication.
Polanco, 18, had her poem “Ezra” printed in a recent edition of the American High School Poets “Inside of Me” anthology. “Inside of Me” is a meaningful study of introspective poems written by teenagers from all over the country.
In her poem, the reader finds a mint plant in a dusty attic and explores what goes on inside the heads of today’s teens in those quiet moments when the outside distractions are finally turned down and one is alone with one’s own thoughts.
“Sometimes poetry is meant to be lyrical, but for me it’s symbolic as a writer,” she explained.
While Polanco began writing around age 12, she did not really get into poetry until her freshman year at Beacon High School in Midtown. She took a creative writing class with her teacher Mr. Chilten, who got her hooked on poetry.
She explained to the Bronx Times that her poetry is based on observation. For example, Polanco listens to conversations on the subway and hallway in her apartment building, things she sees in nature or every day things in the streets.
Although she grew up in a rough neighborhood, she has always kept her poetry positive. Polanco noted that going to school in Manhattan was a culture shock and she even met people who never traveled past 96th Street.
“I felt a little more welcome here,” she explained. “I stand out in environments like that.”
As a child she loved to read and even created a picture book when she was 12. This spawned her passion for writing and it has never left.
In January she entered the poetry contest in hopes of landing a college scholarship. While Polanco did not win, she was notified in April that her poem was getting published nationally.
While she is attending Brandeis to study neuroscience and hopes to work in prison reform from an education point of view, Polanco still plans to continue writing.
“I think it’s [poetry] a nice form of therapy,” she said. “I find a lot of power in it. I want people to know I write with my heart. It feels so weird to call myself a writer.”