Haily Cook Profile


Jocelyn Calhoun, Reporter

While most seventh grade students were playing sports or spending time with friends, sophomore Haily Cook was working with her teacher to become a published author. 7th Grade Poetry (7GP) is a national organization that provides school poetry competitions. Their goal is to bring together families, students, and communities through original poetry.

Cook’s poem “Broken” was published in the 2016 edition. According to Aaron Williams, who works at 7GP, the 2016 edition was a special one because it contained a foreword written by Juan Felipe Herrera, the U.S. poet laureate at the time.

“In sixth grade my school had a poetry contest. The only reason I did it was because it was required and graded. I wrote a poem and submitted it, not really expecting anything to happen,” Cook said. Slowly, her poem kept proceeding in the competition, and eventually, she had won the school wide contest. By the time she got to seventh grade, she thought all the news about her poem had died down, but her English teacher Gabriel Sesmas told her he wanted to enter it to another nationwide competition, put on by the organization 7GP.

Sesmas, Cook’s seventh grade teacher, helped get her published. “I loved that Haily was able to take a very personal and difficult memory and share it with the world,” he said. Though Sesmas helps students find their voice and become published, he gives the students all the recognition, calling himself the cheerleader.

After being published, 7GP invited Cook and many other students to attend a celebration in St. Louis. Though Cook described the event as a whirlwind, she said it was a lot of fun to go hang out with other students who were being published. “The day went by really quickly. I got there and in the first few minutes I was already being interviewed. I had to read my poem on stage in front of a crowd too,” she explained.

“Middle school poetry is rarely on the shelves of public or school libraries,” Williams said. “So rare, that the Dewey Decimal system for coding library books only contains codes for children’s poetry and adult poetry, but not juvenile or young adolescent poetry.” 7GP published six consecutive anthologies in the hopes of promoting adolescent poetry and writing.

Cook has very fond memories of being published. “My advice for getting published is to do your research on organizations that publish young people and get in touch with teachers that can help guide you through the process,” Cook said. Sesmas explained that writing from the heart is important for effective writing, and that persistence is necessary because becoming a published author takes time and many drafts.