Saranac Lake local Jesse Patrick is an aspiring spoken word poet who embraced his love of writing in High School. “I was exposed to so many different and wonderful writers and poets. I flourished in High School because of the Adirondack Center for Writing.”
Jesse’s first poem came in 8th grade, after a hockey injury rocked his identity as an athlete. At the urging of a teacher, he channeled his frustration into writing, later performing this poem for classmates at an open mic. “And that was how it all started,” he says.
“Every year I went to ACW’s High School Writing Retreat, and got to meet writers like Jon Sands, Adam Falkner, and Samantha Thornhill.” Patrick recalls these poets “popping-up” into classrooms, standing on chairs, and reciting poems from memory—their way of disrupting the status quo with the beauty of language, saying, Poetry belongs here too.
“I actually came back from college one year to witness these poets pop-up again. They were so kind and inviting. I read them a poem and they were like, ‘Jesse, why don’t you pop up in these next two classrooms?’ I was scared at first, but inspired because they believed in me. So I just walked into a classroom, stood up on a chair, and started performing. It was an amazing experience, and it solidified for me what I want to do with my life.”
Since those days in high school and college, Jesse has written hundreds of poems, and he charts his progress as a writer alongside ACW’s own development. “I think ACW grew me, and I grew with it.”
Patrick remembers his first experience with the Adirondack Center for Writing, when he attended a reading by Jon Sands at Pendragon Theatre. The style of Sands’ poem—its humor and honesty—invited him in, but it was the content, the willingness to explore complicated feelings about masculinity in poetic form that stuck with Patrick. “And that was really the moment for me. I learned that writing was about passion and connection.”
As a teenager, Patrick used poetry therapeutically to grapple with loss and identity, but looking forward, he sees the artform as a way to strengthen the local community as well as make connections with the wider world. “Writing is my means of trying to make the world a little better than how I found it. A lot of people think writing is inessential…but it’s a connection to humanity. It’s at the very foundations of civilization. Writing keeps love alive by establishing a connection with one another, especially when we leave our homes to go out into the bigger world.”
Today Jesse’s goal is to publish his work, pursue an MFA in poetry, and then return to the village of Saranac Lake and give back to the community he cherishes.
“This place is like nothing else,” Patrick says of Saranac Lake. “It’s an arts town; it’s for the people–it’s a true community. We raise our people up. It’s funny—there’s actually some graffiti just up the road, and it says, ‘It takes a child to raze a village.’ Raze as in, destroy. So, I wrote a poem called “The Village” and I quote that graffiti. I write, “But I have raised it and praised it, given it my blessings, and returned again.”
When thinking about the future of the Adirondack Center for Writing, Patrick says, “ACW welcomed me and helped me grow, and now I want to give back and help ACW grow.”
Part of ACW’s inspiration to move to 15 Broadway is the possibility of setting up a teen writing lounge in the lower level of the space. We see this as an opportunity to foster the next generation of Adirondack writers, by providing a safe, inspiring space where students can write, take workshops, build writing groups, practice performing, and create their own writing community. With this space, we can inspire many more fledgling writers like Jesse to use writing to give their lives meaning and purpose. Help us make this vision a reality by donation to ACW today.