To meet the precocious Lorna Rasmussen is to encounter a brilliant young mind, a keen observer with a vocabulary to rival that of most adults.
Hearing her speak, it comes as no surprise that words have been her refuge since a young age.
Lorna, now 13, has struggled with anxiety for as long as she can remember. Paralyzing social anxiety in preschool years turned into regular panic attacks in early grade school.
“All I honestly remember from that time was this blinding desire to just stop being different. There was no real trigger for it, although I do think being bullied at school for sure made it worse… but I was also just born this way,” said Lorna.
Her discovery of the Harry Potter series at age was like a lifeline. The fantasy fiction became a place where she was safe from the outside world.
Soon after, Lorna would start to create worlds of her own, turning from an avid reader into an avid writer. By age 11, she began writing a novel that’s still in the works as a book series.
But it was writing poetry that eventually allowed her to communicate and move through her anxiety and feelings she describes as an “emotional wall of fire on all sides.”
“I was crying in my bedroom, and I was 12. I felt horrible and despondent, and like I was this worthless broken person who no one would ever love. I actually originally hated poetry,” said Lorna.
“Around that time I had started reading poetry books. And then, I just grabbed a notebook, and I started writing poetry about my feelings. Something just clicked… and I never stopped writing after that.”
Most of her poetry deals with the anxiety that she still struggles with daily.
Performing poetry for her is part catharsis, part emotional outreach for those going through the same things.
“I guess I hope that by sharing that with other people I can let them know that they’re not alone in what they’re going through,” said Lorna.
As for how performing makes her feel, it’s the classic performer’s mix of amazing and terrifying.
“Usually I’ll be really scared before, and afterwards I’ll feel like I could fly. It’s really empowering somehow, to be able to get up in front of a bunch of people and tell all of them exactly how you feel about something, without compromising that at all,” said Lorna.
Since she started last year, she’s written too many poems to count.
“I write literally every day. Other people do diaries – I write. Like if something bad happens, I’ll turn it very cryptically into some kind of poem. It’s really therapeutic for me.”
She’s now turning those poems into an hour-and-a-half show at the McMillian Arts Centre.
This show isn’t her first rodeo – she frequents local open mics, hosts a poetry club at her school and runs a poetry website.
She also won first place at the Wordstorm Society of the Arts’ poetry slam in Nanaimo, taking home a cash prize of $100.
Her show at the MAC is billed as “emotional, brutally honest poetry for those who know what it’s like to battle the monsters that live on the inside.”
The show takes place July 17, at the Oceanside Gallery in the MAC from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Tickets are $5 for those between the ages of 11 and 19, and $10 for those 20 and over.