Durham, NC – From social media to police brutality, father-daughter pair Marcus and 8th grader Hannah Harris tackle all the ins and outs of adolescence in their co-written poetry anthology #snapshot. The project started in 2016, when Hannah was in 6th grade. Marcus, an accomplished writer and social activist, would give his daughter weekly writing goals centered around certain topics and focusing on the different poetic forms that show up in the book from acrostic to limerick and haiku.
Marcus took on some of the wider social issues like the school to prison pipeline and gentrification in his poems, exposing his daughter to ideas that she said are not often discussed amongst her peers. However, Hannah has indeed seen the impact of these phenomenons in her own life. She recalled one classmate of hers, in particular, who is one of the smartest in her grade. Because of his boisterous personality, her classmate is often suspended, including lengthy periods of in-school suspension; up to ten days at a time.
The poems were written individually by father and daughter, as well as collaboratively. Each of the individual poems were work shopped between the pair.
“I asked her for a lot of feedback, I would say ‘okay, does this really happen like this?’,” Marcus said. “Since it’s about teen and tween life, she really was the main source for the material.”
The poems feel real and come alive off the page even for those past their adolescent stage. “Some of them are based on experiences I’ve had, or experiences my friends have had and told me about. Some of them are just general because I know other teens go through it,” Hannah said.
Marcus draws on past experiences as well, but also put in legwork researching and interviewin
“There’s so much social media issues to talk about, and homosexuality,” Hannah said, agreeing that social media plays a part in complicating relationships and enhancing bullying. The “teen” topics receive equal treatment to the more worldly in the collection.
The duo say that writing about issues that can be very sensitive during the adolescent years, like sexuality and bullying, have brought their already close relationship even closer.
Polaroids framing teens in different situations decorate the book’s cover, which was Hannah’s brainchild. The final cover design, however, was put together by an intern at Pulse, LLC.; an independent publishing firm that Marcus established when he released his first book in 2006.
Marcus and Hannah hope to target teens and tweens with their poetry, to bring awareness of the larger issues facing their generation.
“The reason that I put certain topics in there, like the school to prison pipeline, or gentrification, which is a big issue in Durham (NC) right now, is for them to be more aware of the actual higher issues that are happening beyond, [to Hannah] what’s his name? Lil Yachty,” Marcus said.
The pair did a reading from the book at Shepherd Middle School’s African American Read-a-thon, and were met with a standing ovation. “I was pretty nervous,” Hannah said. They hope to get #snapshot into Shepard’s library, as well as other middle school libraries. Presentations are slated for the future at youth groups, churches, and summer camps.
Hannah is working on a short story collection for her next big project. Beyond her writing, Hannah is an active and dynamic student who loves basketball, playing the trumpet, and making beats. Hannah’s middle school basketball team, where she plays as a small forward, has won championship titles two years in a row.