Arts and Lifestyle
|Durham father, daughter publish book of poems|
|Published Monday, March 12, 2018|
DURHAM – What started as a challenge between father and daughter blossomed into a vibrant exchange of ideas and some beautiful poetry that has been published in a book for others to enjoy.
#snapshot is a collection of young adult poetry by local father and daughter writers Marcus Harris and his 13-year-old daughter Hannah Harris. It explores topics like the school-to-prison pipeline, gentrification, police treatment of teens, the current presidency and political climate, and more.
“The idea came in 2016. My daughter, I challenge her each week with goals in different areas,” Harris said. The goals might be about something spiritual, cultural, artistic and so on. Past challenges have included reading about Mithraism, a religion that was a precursor to Christianity; exploring art from Eastern Asia; or writing a song for her little brother.
“My daughter’s always been very intellectually curious,” Harris said. “I’m just trying to guide her curiosity in the right ways and trying to expose her to things she wouldn’t learn about in school or in family.
Harris has been giving Hannah these challenges for the last three years. The challenge that led to their current book was for her to write three poems about modern teen life.
“I was really impressed. They were really good, so I said, ‘Go write four more,’” Harris said. “I actually said to her at that time, ‘You know, if you keep writing poems, I’ll actually put them in book form and we’ll sell them and give them to family and friends.”
At first, Hannah said no. “I didn’t really want to do it at first,” she said. “I wasn’t as excited as I am now. I was like, ‘I don’t want to keep writing poems.’”
Hannah said she was familiar with poetry, including some of her dad’s, but she had never written any of her own before the challenge. She said that she and her dad started talking about social issues, which made her learn about what was going on in the world.
“It felt a lot of different ways,” she said. “It made me upset because I didn’t know what was going on, but it made me happy because I finally was hearing about it.”
Harris is an activist, as well, and said he became really interested in social issues after he had a son. He said that it was easier being a father to a daughter, and he could dote on her and treat her like a princess. But, with a son, he started thinking about how the world would later see and treat him. His son will be 5 in April.
“I can’t just dote on him,” Harris said. “I have to protect him as a young, black man in the world.”
While many of the poems deal with social issues, they are all told from the perspective of how they affect teens. Harris wrote a poem about gentrification from the perspective of a teen watching her grandparents be pushed out of their home.
Harris said he would often drill Hannah about today’s teen life to make sure he was getting the details right. “I got on her nerves, but the poems were more genuine,” he said.
The most surprising thing he learned, he said, was that teens don’t use Facebook.
“I was taking her to school one morning, and I think we got on the issue of social media somehow, and she said, ‘Daddy, I would be surprised if I knew anybody who was on Facebook.’” She told him that the site was for “old people.” Instead, teens use Snapchat and Instagram.
#snapshot is on sale on Amazon, and is available as a paperback or an e-book.
Hannah, who is in the eighth grade at James E. Shepard Middle, is also working on a book of short stories and plans to launch a graphic design business later this year.
Harris has released another book, Songs in Search of a Voice, which has sold 50,000 copies. He is in the process of starting his own production company. Visit www.marcusjharris.com.
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