As part of the 2022 Dear Poet project, students around the country and the world wrote letters to Brian Sonia-Wallace in response to a video of him reading his poem “Heirloom” aloud. Brian Sonia-Wallace wrote letters back to six of these students; their letters and his replies are included below.

Brian Sonia-Wallace also wrote a response to all of the participants of this year's Dear Poet project.


Dear human people,
 
Thanks for spending some of your time with this poem. That’s how poems grow rich—the investment of our time and attention. You have expanded what this poem means to me, as well as pointed out an ambiguity that I’ll be sure to address in future revisions! Art is never over. Never finished. It lives in these sorts of conversations.
 
Many of you wrote me about your own relationships with tomatoes. Funny, isn’t it, how a small but specific thing can trigger a bunch of memories? That’s poetry. Also, true confessions, I have not grown tomatoes before or since the ones mentioned in the poem. You don’t have to be devoted to something to find a metaphor in it, for your life.
 
Lots changed since I wrote this poem. The theatre is gone, though the people who made it up are still diligently creating little communities of clowns around the world, disrupting our realities, daring us to see things differently, and to laugh in the face of absurdity and despair. My dad also died around the time I chose to share this poem with you all, and sharing the poem was a way of remembering him and honoring his memory.
 
Giving some sort of wise advice like other poets have done here sits uncomfortably with me. I just turned 33 (happy birthday to me!). I’m still an infant compared to so many poets here—but then, in cosmic terms, aren’t we all kinda new? A big part of this poem is about what future we are working to build. I studied Sustainable Development at university and became obsessed with the ways the planet is falling apart. In the face of our ongoing kerfuffle, we have to work but, just as importantly, also to dream. We have to be both poets and clowns. And if we can laugh at ourselves? That might just save us all.
 
Chances are you think lots of things about the way the world works are stupid. I know I did at your age. And you’re right. I’m only 33 but I’m already jaded and tired. It’s cliche, but we need your energy. Now more than ever. Please give us grown-ups hell.
 
Sincerely,
Brian
 

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Brian Sonia-Wallace reads "Heirloom"

Brian Sonia-Wallace reads "Heirloom" for Dear Poet 2022.