World traveler, poet, and native of West Michigan, Emily DeYoung is a wordsmith if there ever was one. Having visited more countries than years she’s been alive, her writing brings you into her experiences; lets you live in detail-focused moments of her world. Her debut poetry book, How the Wind Calls the Restless, is a collection of scribbled notes from during and between her travels. The book, available here, “features themes of questioning and redemption through the perspective of a young woman finding herself in many different worlds.”
What excites/inspires you? This could be within the realm of poetry or the creative arts as a whole.
“Other artists inspire me. When I am taken aback by a piece of work, be it music, poetry, literature, photography, painting, dancing- I become humbled and what I witness fills my soul with pride and wonder for the human spirit. To me, beautiful art is the best argument for higher power, magic or miracles. Artists who create because it is part of their very essence and know what they want to portray, while giving little thought to pleasing others with their work are the ones that succeed the most in my opinion. They are the most truthful artists. Some of my favorite authors are Stephen King, Mary Karr, Margaret Atwood, John Steinbeck, Virginia Woolf and Charlotte Bronte. People who think for themselves and carve their own path without heeding to societal timelines or expectations inspire me.”
DeYoung’s interests started when she was young. She shares, “I have loved literature and poetry since middle school, those angsty days. I listened to a lot of Green Day songs that weren’t in the mainstream and I loved the writing style of Billie Joe Armstrong. He was always bold, poetic and unafraid to be weird, which inspired me.” After graduating from high school, she began to travel extensively, “For five years (and I guess still) I lived off and on out of a backpack, staying away for months at a time. I think my longest stint lasted around seven months. The travel community absolutely blew me away when I jumped in. The vagabonds out there- young and old- sharing perspectives and stories, absolutely captured my heart. That kind of existence felt right to me somehow.”
When possible, she’s done work-away programs, teaching English, working in hostels, or nannying for free in exchange for lodging and food. Notable foreign gigs include working on a retired artist’s medieval farm, working on an Island in Thailand, and partaking in a solo writing retreat put on by the poetry magazine ‘The Moth’ in the countryside of Ireland. It was on this retreat that DeYoung began to organize her hundreds of poems into manuscripts. When working abroad isn't possible she waitresses at home to replenish her travel fund, and dreams about the next trip. “I really want to hit New Zealand and South America. And about a thousand other places. When I travel, I like to spend a decent amount of time in each place and interact with the people and culture there.”
What does Grand Rapids/West Michigan identity represent to you?
“Grand Rapids has become a city that I look forward to coming home to. Growing up in the more rural areas outside of downtown, my parents didn’t introduce me to the city when I was a kid. I didn’t think much of it until I began visiting with my friends as a teenager, wasting time wandering down streets and trying to find the tallest parking garage to ascend to the roof. It brought me my first tastes of culture in real life aside from books and Hollywood. I remember bringing a twister board into The Amway hotel once and getting escorted out by security. I’ve heard that Grand Rapids is an 'up and coming' city, and it has become a vibrant hub for artists, independent businesses and tourists. There are so many unique and special places in Grand Rapids and tons of amazing events. I feel super fortunate to live nearby. There is always something profound to get involved in, or great food and beer to be had. I’ve been to many cities and Grand Rapids is definitely one of my favorites. Being from a northern state and living close to splendorous Lake Michigan, I didn’t realize how fortunate I was until I traveled and returned. The lake and the city, all within reach attracts surfers, skaters, photographers, film-makers; an endless array of inspired personalities.”
HOT TAKE QUESTION: If animals could talk which would be the rudest?
“Cats- I’m telling you, they are sarcastic bastards.”
Outside of travelling and writing, DeYoung keeps a varied and active lifestyle: “I love to stay active by hiking, running, kickboxing or playing basketball. I also love chocolate malts and Italian food and anything truffle-inspired. I crave spontaneity and struggle staying in a routine for very long. I have to break it up by doing random, sometimes crazy things with friends or heading out for months, scouring my favorite dingy travel circles for new memories. I think a sense of humor is essential for everything in this life. I have finally started pursuing a degree in journalism and want to eventually do something in that field or in publishing.”
Emily DeYoung is reportedly headed out west again early this summer, so be sure to grab a copy of her book; maybe even catch her at a book signing before she leaves. For more content you can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, or check out her website.