LWHS English teacher publishes poetry book

‘The Difference Between Solitude and Loneliness’ is seven years in the making; teacher’s dream come true.

Many grow up dreaming of becoming an athlete. Others, a rock-n-roll musician, a firefighter, a dancer or a doctor —something to “be known” to many others.

Terrance Terich has always wanted to be a part of something permanent and lasting — even if it’s just to one or a few people.

Having worked in bookstores for more than 16 years to eventually become an English teacher at Lake Washington High School (LWHS), he said he’s always wanted to be a writer.

At a bookstore he used to work at, he said there was a computer that could search every book in print and could order it to the store.

“I thought, ‘I’m going to be able to look up my name in this computer someday and one day it will come up with something,’” he said.

Now, after seven years in the making, he could find his name in that computer.

Terich recently self-published his first poetry book, “The Difference Between Solitude and Loneliness.”

Terich wrote poetry during his teens and into his 20s, but said it was never anything worth keeping or sharing. The birth of the poetry club at LWHS was what got Terich to consider writing poetry again.

“Stepping into being the host of the [poetry] slams and having to fill time in between scoring rounds was the only reason I started writing again,” he said. “I had to fill time somehow, so someone says ‘Why don’t you do poetry?’ and I thought ‘OK…’ All my writing over the last seven years started from that and the response that I got.”

With each poetry slam, Terich became more and more serious about his writing. One section of the book are the poems he wrote specifically for the poetry slams.

Writing poetry for the slams inspired him to keep going to the point where he wrote one or two poems a week throughout last summer and posted them to Instagram and received overwhelmingly positive responses.

Aside from receiving inspiration from the poetry slams, he said many of his students requested copies of poems he wrote with them during class.

“I would assign poems to my classes and they would always ask me to write a poem with them. So, every time they would write one, I promised I’d write one with them, and if they’d share, I would share. Because of them asking me to do that, and them sometimes asking for a copy, I think that’s what gave me the idea to write a book,” he said.

The book, self-published through BookBaby, includes four sections. The first are poems written from class prompts or inspired from other poets.

“The first section was how to ‘make poetry accessible to everyone,’” he said. “My message in the intro of that section was basically ‘We all have to start somewhere. All you people who say you can’t write poetry, you can, you just need a little boost.’… It may not be the best to start off a book with poems that I don’t think are my best but it shows that everyone starts somewhere.”

The second section features poems written for specific occasions. The third section includes the poems written last summer and posted to Instagram. The fourth section concludes the book with poems he wrote for the poetry slams.

“I wanted to end with those because that was kind of what started with everything and I feel those are my best pieces,” he said.

Organizing seven years’ worth of poems proved to be challenging for Terich, as well as formatting the poems to read the same print as they do when spoken.

However, like many of his students, he struggled with coming up with a title for the book. For the past couple years, Terich has had his AP Language students create a short poetry book after they complete their exam and they ask if they have to title it or not. He advises them to look through their poems and find one line or phrase that sticks out to them and if that one line or phrase seems to come up in some way or another throughout other poems.

“The title of my book is from one of my poems. I took my own advice because I was stuck too. I looked through and found that line and I realized that three or four of the other poems in the book deal with that theme…and so it just felt like it really fit.”

The theme — the difference between solitude and loneliness — is something that he tells his students, especially seniors who are about to graduate or juniors that are about to be seniors.

“The message is don’t let anyone tell you what your future should be, you figure out what your future should be. I say it because some people just put things on you…like they’ll tell you you’re lonely but you may not be,” he said. “I tell them there is a difference between solitude and loneliness and I’ve even said that before and I think that’s how it ended up in the poem.”

Since the book’s release Sept. 24, Terich has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from students.

“Some of the stuff I’ve been hearing I just didn’t expect. The feedback I’m getting has been really rewarding because it feels like it was worth it,” he said.

The students who have provided feedback are almost all former students, as he hasn’t told all of his current students. He said he didn’t want to promote his current students to buy the book and earn his favor. He has his book perched in his office window and any student who asks about it can learn more. One current student has already read the book and expressed her gratitude for one poem in particular.

“The poem said that what society tells you will make you happy is not necessarily what will make you happy and that you can define your own happiness, and she said ‘I’ve been wanting to hear that for so long and it makes me feel like I can talk to my parents about what they expect from me and what I expect from me,’” he said. “That was huge. If nothing else, just if there’s one poem in there that maybe someone can connect with and can get some kind of help or meaning or something out of it, then it really feels like, ‘OK, this is definitely the best thing that could’ve ever come from this.’”

For Terich, knowing he’s done something that will last long after him, he said he feels like he’s contributed to something larger than himself.

“It’s a dream come true to be able to know I’ve done something that is permanent and lasting…even if only a few people read it, it was worth it,” he said.

The book is available at Amazon and BookBaby.com.

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