i am the love letter: an index of every high school love poem i’ve ever written

“have you ever shoved expectations into a bottle and shipped them off to sea in exchange for one kiss from the boy who lives in the lighthouse?

so, my love, build a rocketship with me
I’ll shoot through atmospheres like it’s nothing
I’ll go to the moon just to write you a story on its surface
and when I return, I know you’ll be waving from the loading dock

basically what I’m saying is don’t go anywhere
instead go everywhere
I think I understand”
- no where i will not go

i am the love letter begins in my freshman year of high school and ends with a poem written on January 1st of my senior year. Through multiple titles, formats, and intentions, the work has opened up a space in my life for art that was unhinged, unedited, and endlessly open. The book, clocking in at around 285 pages, includes a preface and an epilogue-esque “black-in poem.” Aside from that, the poems live without explanation or apology, tracking my changes in style and heart from the ages of fourteen to seventeen.

Published through Tablo Publishing, the cover of i am the love letter was designed by Deanna Nguyen, artist and current student at Cal Poly SLO. 
I have a hyper-fixation on love. I have since I was a kid, but as I moved into high school and came to terms with my queer and artistic identity, the expression for this obsession revealed itself. Writing poems to my lovers felt like I was baring myself and my heart to the universe in a different way. I had an obsession with never forgetting anything about being a teenager. I kept diaries in journals and my notes app. I vowed to myself that I would never forget what it felt like to have everything carry the whole weight of the world. I did not ever want to find myself frustrated by other people’s immaturity. I worried about how hyporcritical that would be.

Inevitably, I began to grow up. Soon I was sixteen, no longer fourteen. Then seventeen. The notebooks began accumulating, and the poems began to get better and worse. I discovered the intense longing for care within myself over and over again. I noticed how my palms began to ache whenever I was filled with deep love. I referenced the same metaphors of religion and sunshine too often.

i am the love letter took shape during this time. The book took different forms and titles as I moved through different relationships and states. For awhile, I dated a girl long-distance in New York and named the Google Doc “coffee @ 6pm” (I may still use that title for something). I shared it with a boy who I thought was a friend and then removed him from the document when he commented too many loving things about my work. Every time I considered really completing the work, I would get shaky. So many of these moments are ones I had hidden from my parents, myself, my community.

This is the reason that i am the love letter is so important. It still terrifies me. Holding my book in my hands for the first time was surreal, and reading it almost felt like the words were somebody else’s. None of the poems here are edited or revised. They are just as embarrassing as when I first addressed them to lovers. They include stupid endearments and inside jokes that make me blush. The book flips through scenes that I will remember forever. Reading this feels like reading a movie trailer for the teenage heart.

I would like to say that I am no longer embarrassed of these words, but I absolutely am. They are raw and unpolished. Still, the feeling of all-consuming love is something universal. I am not the only one that has felt with this intensity. I published a book of high school love poems because we all have our high-school-love-poem moments. That is an experience that connects us through vulnerability and folly. It is how we learn a certain type of intimate bravery. I am lucky to have learned how to open my palms to love in this way, and I am even luckier to have the ability to get to share that love through this book.

i am the love letter can be purchased here.