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My Professional Poetry Career Began at 12

by Gigi Thrasher

If I'd have known my most successful years as a writer would've occurred in junior high, I'd have reveled in my success a little more.

It was 1980 and I was the Judy Blume of Brame Jr. High. I understood preteen angst like no other and could convey those feelings of love, longing, and regret into rhyming quatrains before the tardy bell rang each period.

Payment was 50 cents a poem, payable in canteen items. Sour Apple Now & Laters were my currency of choice and I'm surprised I didn't have a dozen cavities that first year.

While we were learning about Robert Frost and Edgar Allen Poe in our textbooks, I was learning ghostwriting IRL. (We wouldn't know that meant IN REAL LIFE until much later; you'd have had to gag us with a spoon to get us to speak in acronyms back then!)

Here's how the gig worked: a boy would come up to me between classes and ask me to write a poem for his crush or girlfriend. It was always a version of I want to date you, I'm happy to be dating you, or Please forgive me. Come to think of it, that's the basic extent of a man's repertoire for his entire life. But I digress.

They would find out what I wanted from the canteen and I would deliver the poems after lunch. 5th period found me surrounded by more boys, those who wanted to order their own poems and those who wanted to share in the candied fruits of my labor. 

Most writers could only dream of such success. But I never appreciated it. Because all I ever wanted...

was for a boy to want a poem to give to me!