Magazine Student Voice

Poetry Is the Way

Creative writing has helped me understand myself and the world around me

By Caroline Quan

Winter 2024

My journey as a student poet began in fourth grade with a can of beans. My teacher had asked us to write a short story. I composed “BEANZILLA,” a tale about a swarm of beans that were determined to take over the world. In just 207 words, I wrote what I now consider to be my first attempt at a prose poem. From that moment, I began to explore my imagination through writing.

In high school, my poetry took on a more serious tone as I attempted to comprehend my biracial and queer identity. My words were melancholic and fearful. Over time, writing poetry helped me know myself better. That increased my self-acceptance and self-confidence and helped me feel more at peace.

I stopped writing poetry during my first semester at Emory University. As a pre-med student, I only took STEM classes. By the end of the semester, though, I felt burned out from a combination of online classes and multiple family emergencies. During winter break, I read a poetry collection by Mary Oliver that my high school English teacher had given me. She’d left a note inside reminding me to never stop writing.

That spring, I enrolled in an introductory poetry-writing workshop. The professor challenged me. For instance, she once asked why the flowers in my poem were yellow. I answered that they were yellow in real life. She replied, “So?” This exchange made me realize that poetry can function outside of
real-world truths.

My work continued to change over the next two years. I began to write in the realm of abstract and surrealist poetry. Today, my poems find emotion in moments of concrete experience. While the poems are often initially humorous, my words reveal underlying emotional complexities.

In this vein, my poem “Ashley and the Limes” examines the futility of striving through an absurdist lens. I composed the poem’s last line first then worked backward. This allowed me to write toward an unknown beginning. “Green limes dropping from/Great heights” shifts the poem’s tone from humorous to melancholy. Earlier in the poem, dogs jump at the tree, trying to grab fruit—but the limes are only reachable if they happen to fall. Ultimately, the poem is about patience and unattainability. I felt sad and heavy after I wrote the poem. As is so often the case, writing the poem was a powerful way of journaling. My poetry helps me understand myself.

Ashley and the Limes

By Caroline Quan

Every morning, Ashley dumps the leftover water
From the dog bowl into lime tree pots because
The trees are growing tall and every season will
Be a season of limes. He works long hours and
His dogs get bored. They jump around the trees
To see who can get the most limes in their mouth.
Ashley found out once and told them, "This is dangerous."
He then fit three in his mouth. The dogs got jealous
And ate all the limes at the bottom of the trees. Ashley
Doesn't own a ladder, so he can't reach the rest.
He comes home to green limes dropping from
Great heights.

Photo: Caroline Quan


  • Caroline Quan

    Caroline Quan

    Caroline Quan is a senior at Emory University in Georgia majoring in English and creative writing.