Dear Arthur Sze,

Hello, I’m Colten. I’m a freshman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Today, I read and reread your poem “The Shapes of Leaves.” Deforestation and habitat loss—for animals like the whooping crane—flood the news, and people often find themselves in discussions at a superficial level. I’ve never read something that made me experience the situation both emotionally and critically. I think this is why your poem resonated with me so much.

The link between the “contours” of the leaves and the consequential emotions in this poem is very powerful. When I watched the video of you reading the poem you looked up and paused every time grief or anger occurred in the poem. I knew that you could feel the power of your words, even when reading them yourself.

The network of gravel roads traversing fields meant to be filled with beautiful aspen trees made me furious. I was genuinely angry. But you still seem to find repose in the “edge of a new leaf.”

How do you find these ties between nature and the feelings they spark when you write poetry? How do you find the anger and sorrow and peace as you write?

The ending of the poem is almost paradoxical. After a poem about fiery emotion and grief, you end with the pleasure and sweetness of a sugar maple. I think it brings hope and balance to the pervasive problem.


Grade 9
Milwaukee, WI

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