Making other books jealous since 2004

Christopher Reilley

Christopher Reilley

Chris, you're a community-minded poet laureate who participates in lots of outreach programs that encourage kids to write poetry. But if you were allowed to get political with them, what would you tell them, and how would that message relate to your sense of self when you were a kid?

I think one of the special advantages to being a writer, even more so perhaps for poets, is the ability to see more than one side of an issue or question, to entertain opposing viewpoints simultaneously without going looney. Or loonier. When we write characters, we articulate viewpoints we may not share, and or write about the consequences of those viewpoints. So we have to know as much as we can about the other side of an issue, no matter what it is. Writers and artists rock at this kind of thinking.

Politics is the worst. Both sides think they are correct, and only having two choices boils everything down to a yes or no question, which is not always the best way to get things done, and it sometimes all boils down to a great big popularity contest. So my writing advice to kids as writers is simply this—donít believe everything thing you hear, and only half of what you read.—Check things out for yourself. Donít harvest your diet out of only one field. Find out what the news from other countries reports on America, read the news from other places.

I was lucky as a kid to have an uncle in the Air Force, who sent home newspapers from different countries. I really got a chance to see what they think of us in other countries, and it changed the way I thought about my own.

Remember, in the mind of the villain, they are the hero of their own movie.


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