Jaden Fong ’22 on Writing Poetry that Soothes the Soul
By Tracy Seipel
Award winner offers tips on writing poetry for oneself, and “SCU in Quarantine” project.
Jaden Fong ’22 didn’t become a talented poet overnight, but the Santa Clara English major believes anyone can try their hand at arranging thoughts and images into words that often soothe the soul.
At least, that’s what he’s found over the last year of living at his home near Sacramento, where he's been attending Zoom classes, and penning poems.
“A lot of what inspires me is nature, and it usually ends up relating to my poetry in one way or another,” he says of a preferred theme.
Not only did his efforts recently win him first place in two poetry contests—the Academy of American Poets Tamara Verga Poetry Prize, and tying for first with Nate Metz '23 in the Shipsey Poetry Prize—Fong made sure to submit a separate poem to Santa Clara Magazine’s SCU In Quarantine story project.
“Missed Connection,” an allegory of his shelter-in-place life during the pandemic, particularly the inability to speak to people in person, fits neatly into the Magazine’s digital time capsule of personal reflections over the last year, to which all members of the SCU community are encouraged to contribute. So does another powerful poem about cultural heritage submitted to the online project by Sunkyo Chung '23.
Everyone has their own COVID-19 story to tell, says Fong, and the Santa Clara Review assistant poetry editor reminds us that a poem can often capture all five senses in a relatively short format. Perhaps most freeing, there are no rules in writing poetry, whatever the subject.
“My mom is the biggest nature lover I know,” he says, “and during the pandemic, we have walked along the American River near where I live, just to be able to get outside and do something.”
Those walks proved to be fertile ground for Fong, who would make mental notes about scenes from the day, including the flora and fauna he observed, which often inspired his writing.
“Poetry is one of the most vulnerable forms of art you can do because it’s truly spilling your heart and thoughts onto a page—saying what you want to say, and how you want to say it,” says the 21-year-old, who plans to teach high school English after he graduates.
“The thing that I would tell everyone is to just do it,” Fong says. “Write what you want to write, and find someone who can give you feedback and encouragement.”
For him, that meant seeking out SCU creative writing mentor Claudia McIsaac to review his two contest entries, one that addresses a deer on the verge of extinction, while the other conjures a modern-day Pygmalion.
No matter what idea you come up with, he says, “just remind yourself that we all start somewhere, and the more you try, the better you’ll get.”
May 21, 2021