Meet Andrine Pierresaint, a longtime Books of Hope youth leader and a 15-year-old force to be reckoned with.
In her mid-teens, Andrine is not only an award-winning poet and performer, but also a published author who facilitates a weekly series of creative writing workshops for a group of pre-teens at the Mystic Learning Center in Somerville, MA.
For Andrine, poetry has been an outlet for processing challenging emotions in a constructive way as well as a bridge to new worlds, connecting her to a community of mentors and young people from all walks of life.
“I have other people that I know that, like, if I want to talk about something I can talk to them about it, but the first person I’m going to think about to talk about poetry and what happened in an event and how I’m feeling about a poem, is Erich. He brought me to Louder Than A Bomb, and it was like a whole new world,” Andrine reflects.
Erich Haygun is the Program Director at Books of Hope (BOH), created in 1990 by Anika Nailah as a creative outlet for young people in and around the Mystic Learning Center. Specializing in poetry, BOH provides opportunities for young people to develop and refine their creative writing skills through peer mentorship.
Locally, BOH features their youth leaders at Boston Public Library’s Teen Central in Back Bay from 3-5pm the last Friday of every month. Additionally, BOH hosts “BEEN OUT HERE,” an all-ages open-mic and workshop every second Wednesday from 6-9pm at The Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville, in collaboration with The Center for Teen Empowerment. BOH also prepares a team of young people to compete in the annual statewide Louder Than A Bomb Youth Poetry Slam. In her time at Books of Hope, Andrine has participated in the competition multiple times.
“Isn’t poetry the fuel that pulls you out of bed? Something you do by yourself, for yourself, for your team, for your family, with your dreams, despite money, despite anxiety? Isn’t poetry something you do with your heaviest heart, with your last breath, with your whole life?”
Profoundly supportive of young people, BOH also offers paid fellowships to participants who demonstrate a commitment to their craft and are dedicated to sharpening their skills. Through these fellowships, young people have access to writing workshops, publication and performance opportunities, professional development as well as peer-mentoring training. Young people learn skills to explore their creative paths while also gaining technical assistance and financial rewards for their hard work.
Andrine’s first book entitled Even Pears Speak to Me features a collection of poems that address race issues, fat-phobia, mental abuse, neglect and its lasting effects. Her poetry also explores familial relationships and the power of learning to love yourself.
More on Andrine’s journey:
Video by Alexandra Wimley and Breana Stephen.
Photos by Alexandra Wimley.