Maya Ganesan has broken the rules, and she’s not apologizing.
She remembers her mother’s advice well: real poets sit in a quiet place and write. So at age four, she sat down on the couch and started writing.
Now 11, Maya has defied her mother’s words of wisdom – and any laws of writing poetry.
“I like that I can break the rules, that I can say whatever I want and don’t have to restrict it,” said Ganesan, a sixth grader and member of Odle Middle School’s gifted program.
She recently read her first published book, “Apologies to an Apple,” during poetry night at Parkplace Books in Kirkland.
“I like that I don’t have to be completely and truly honest and don’t have to write formally.”
And the young poet can be anywhere when the inspiration strikes, says her mother, Lakshmi.
“She could just be playing the piano or riding a bike and ideas for a poem comes to her and she just stops riding and goes and writes her ideas down before the thought has gone away,” Lakshmi said, adding her daughter can kick out a poem fast.
Self-driven to write poems since she was 4 years old, Maya’s full potential was unlocked last spring when she was accepted into Lakeside, a private Seattle school. Her parents realized the school was too expensive and decided she could not attend.
So Maya sat her parents down and explained she was disappointed because at the end of the school year, some students get to have their poetry published.
“We realized she had this real passion for writing and was really keen on publishing her own book,” Lakshmi said, adding they found poet Katherine Grace Bond to mentor their daughter.
There was no stopping Maya.
Over the next four months, she wrote about 75 poems. She chose 45 of them to be featured in her book, edited her poems, designed a book cover and contacted publishers until finally her book was published.
“All we did was stand on the sidelines and watch her do everything on her own,” Lakshmi said.
Maya says the most important part about writing poetry is she “can write literally anything. It’s sort of like I confide in writing. It’s a way to say what I want to say. It sort of feels like a diary.”
What makes her a good poet?
“The fact that every day I’m exploring different styles and poets,” she said, noting her favorite poet is Kelli Russell Agodon, who endorsed Maya’s book. “I write based off of images and the way I decide whether a poem is good or not is if I’ve conveyed that image as clear as it came to me.”
She crafted her favorite poem “Merge” when several images came to her after reading about the Day of the Dead. Her inspiration also comes from many “weird places,” she says, including her desktop wallpaper that inspired her poem “Just Another Poem.” Other times, she will hear a conversation that will spark a poem.
“Through writing, I have learned to take the tiny things we usually ignore and think about them,” she said.
Though Maya is glad that her dream has finally come true, there’s still more she’d like to do. She is working on another poetry manuscript and hopes to have another book on the shelves soon.
She has also been reading her poetry to the community, including to a reading class that was held at the Redmond Senior Center and to elementary students, whom she hopes to inspire.
Carrie Wood is editor of the Kirkland Reporter. She may be contacted at email@example.com