SAN DIEGO — While children frolic, browned by rays--
Engrossed in lives of sunlit days--
Appreciation gently plays . . .
Upon the sands of time.
-- From "Tropic Musings," a poem by Heidi Hart
To be the author of a book at 35 is, most would agree, an achievement. To be the author of a book at 16 is almost unheard of. To be thinking of another before you're 18, to have the goal of winning the Nobel Prize--these are not the things most high school dreams are made of.
High school is an interesting world these days. There are girls, and guys, with waxy purple hair and lockers full of Madonna records. At San Diego High, almost every nationality in the U.S.A. answers the bell each day. And among the athletes and punkers, surfers and gang members is a girl of 16 known as school poet.
Published school poet.
Heidi Hart is a junior at San Diego High, a magnet school, where for less than a year she has been in a program in creative writing. She has lived in Hawaii (the inspiration of the above poem) and Thousand Oaks, which, needless to say, was less inspiring than Hawaii. Somewhere along the way, she learned to write. Not just dreamy teen-age wanderings, but poetry.
"The things I've seen of hers are way above what other students hand in," said Mary Rose, her journalism teacher. "They're at a much higher level. Most student poetry is obvious--there's only one layer to peel back. Hers is multidimensional, and much more interesting for that reason. She's a much deeper person than a lot of the students I've seen."
She also isn't timid about taking initiative. Pleased with some of her poems, she recently wrote a letter to Doug Emry, publisher of Writers West magazine, which is based in San Diego. Emry liked her work well enough to act as publisher of a small volume of verse, "The Art of Astral Flight." The smiling face at autograph parties at The Book Mark Bookstore on Adams Avenue (where she will be Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.) and at Upstart Crow bookstores around town is none other than Heidi's.
She admits that being published is a bit heady. It is, however, a form of recognition she enjoys and hopes desperately to continue. She has found her peers to be remarkably supportive, free of envy and standoffishness, and overwhelmingly curious to find out what's coming next.
What is coming next?
She'd like to write a novel--"I'm only human," she said with a laugh--more poetry, maybe a screenplay, and of course, bag the prize known as Nobel somewhere down the line. For what may seem an incredibly ambitious adolescent, she does not, however, plan to attend college.
"I'm not real diligent," she said. "Thank goodness, writing things has forced me to be more disciplined. But I'm afraid I don't see the classroom that way. In that environment I just haven't realized my potential. And college is a whole different world, one that I guess leaves me in awe."
Heidi's grades are OK but not exceptional. At the moment she has two As, a B and a couple of Cs. If forced to take a college entrance exam today, she's convinced she'd score well on the verbal while reaching a new low in math.
Molly Hart-Richards, her mother, said she isn't worried about her daughter's coolness toward the ivy-lined lanes of college--not yet.
"I think she'll eventually go," she said. "She has one more year to make up her mind. I think she'd like a year or two to see what life's really like. She loves travel. Scandinavia has special appeal. Much of her ancestry was Scandinavian. She has a spiritual feeling for the place."
Like her daughter, Hart-Richards believes in past lives. She believes her daughter once lived in Scandinavia, and that maybe she knew her. She thinks her daughter may be psychic.
Heidi's maternal grandfather was a poet.
"He wrote a lot during World War II," said Hart-Richards. "That's a definite genetic link. Heidi has written poetry since I can remember. It's a mystical thing, and now, perhaps, even her obsession."
She writes "prolifically every day, seven days a week," her mother said. Her evening consists of a walk "to clear her head," then three to four hours of intense poetry in a loft at the family home near Mission Bay.
Rose is impressed.
"Somebody needed something written for the school yearbook," Rose said. "Heidi agreed to write it and did a marvelous job. When it finally appeared, it wasn't some dreamy sophomoric nonsense, it was good. That gave me the feeling she could be a writer. It was like a command performance. It required discipline and agony. She came through, but not without sweating it out and doing so willingly."
At the moment, Heidi lives with her mother and stepfather; she used to live with her father and stepmother. She has a 5-year-old half-brother from one family, a 2-year-old half-sister from the other. She's attached to both, loving children in a way that transcends a sister's affection.