UPPER MAKEFIELD >> A 12-year-old poet from Upper Makefield will be publishing her first book of poetry this fall thanks to an outpouring of support on her IndieGoGo crowdfunding page.
Matilda Bray, who just completed the sixth grade at Sol Feinstone Elementary School, said she’s humbled by the response she has received from family, friends and strangers whose donations will make her new book possible.
In just one and a half days she had met and exceeded her initial goal of $1500 – enough to publish 500 books.
“Wow,” she said of the outpouring and support that has come her way. “I was very surprised. “I never dreamed of going this far. Thanks to everyone who are making this possible.”
She also met and exceeded her stretch goal of $2,500 with the money raised above and beyond $1500 being donated to the Children’s Literacy Project of Philadelphia.
“We’re trying to generate as much for the CLP folks as possible,” said her father, Chris, describing the organization as “an A-plus rated, award-winning charity.”
Entitled “Under the Moon as My Sun,” her chapbook – scheduled for publication in September – will include 35 original poems on diverse topics ranging from the Holocaust to lighthearted verses about nature and baking blueberry pies.
The idea for the book was suggested by Matilda’s two mentors – 2010 Bucks County Poet Laureate Lorraine Henrie Lins and founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tekpoet Joanne Leva – who have been advising and encouraging the budding young writer for the past few years.
Matilda met the two at an event at the Michener Museum about five or six years in which poets were challenged to write pieces about selected pieces of art.
“A couple hours later she’s got these two great poems and they were just fawning all over her,” said Matilda’s dad.
About a year later, they ran into Joanne again at a poetry reading in New Hope. That’s where Joanne suggested the idea of being Matilda’s mentor and helping to expand her horizons.
“Before you know it they were meeting together at the Doylestown Library once or twice a month to mentor her along,” said Chris.
During their mentoring sessions, the poets have worked with Matilda on different types of poetry, like limericks. They also helped her condense her body of work into some cohesion for the book.
For nearly seven years, she has been writing poems and short stories.
“When I write, I feel concealed from the rest of the world. When I write, the words flow … every word has a significant meaning. I write not only about beauty and nature but also about great sadness and cruelty,” she writes on her IndieGoGo page.
“I love going outside and observing nature and wildlife, but it always touches me to hear about all the horrible and sad events going on in the world, though I seem to live in a bubble where nothing bad happens,” she writes.
“Poetry also gives me a calmness where I can be anyone or anything. That is one of the great joys of writing and one aspect that keeps me coming back,” she says.
She draws her inspiration from many sources, including people she knows, events in her life (ie. the passing of her grandmother), famous figures, such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the survivors of the Holocaust, and random people – “sometimes I like putting myself in their shoes.”
She counts Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Robert Frost, American poet Maya Angelou, Irish poet Seamus Heaney and Edgar Allan Poe among her favorites.
Matilda penned her first poems, “Everlasting,” inspired by Natalie Babbitt’s “Tuck Everlasting,” and “On Being Kind,” which was published in the school newspaper, when she was around five or six years old.
Her body of poetry, now numbering in the hundreds, has earned her second place at the Main Street Voices Poetry Contest and runner-up (by one point) at the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Poetry Slam, hosted by Montgomery County Poet Laureate, David Escobar-Martin.
She also competed against 21 area poets at the Flash Poetry Festival at the New Hope Arts Center for the coveted Flash Poetry Prize and she has read hecr poetry at Farley’s Bookshop in New Hope during National Poetry Month. She also has been published in the Schuylkill Valley Journal and the River Poets Journal.
When her book comes out, Matilda said she will be reading selections at ltocal bookstores, including Farley’s in New Hope and the Doylestown Bookshop. She has also accepted an invitation to read at a New York City school.
And she’s already looking to the future publication of another chapbook along with a book of short stories.
This summer, Matilda, her sister, and their parents, Chris and Tracy Bray will be moving to Solebury Township. That means Matilda will be attending a new school come September.
Matilda said it’s sad to say goodbye to her former school where she said teachers have encouraged her along the way.
“Ms. Sabol helped me publish my first poem,” she said. And gifted support teacher Nancy Stout “inspires me to keep moving on.”
With that thought in mind, she’s looking forward to her new school – the New Hope-Solebury Middle School – and the publication of her book of poetry in September.
For more information and to pre-order a copy of Matilda’s chapbook, CLICK HERE and help make Matilda’s dream a reality.