Tigers Were My Friends - A COMPAS Anthology Flashback


Tigers don’t seem like the ideal companion but they were for a young Sara Biren! Not actual tigers — that would be dangerous — but through the power of a COMPAS poetry residency she recalled memories of drawing tigers when she was younger, which at the time were her fictional friends. Her poem ended up in COMPAS’ 1986 anthology of student writing (A Piece of the Moon is Missing)!

Sara wrote the poem in 6th grade after a week-long residency with former Teaching Artist Richard Solly.

“I’m fairly certain that we were instructed to write about a specific memory,” Sara remembered. “I recall very vividly being the only child left at home when my older siblings were at school and needing to find ways to fill the empty hours. I helped my mother bake and wash dishes and do laundry. I read every book I could get my hands on. And I painted in my room with watercolors. That memory was embellished for the piece. Tigers Were My Friends, is a melancholy prose poem about a lonely girl painting in her room.”

That writing experience for Sara was life-changing — shaping not only her 6th grade year, but her career as a writer today, as the author of two novels (The Last Thing You Said and Cold Day in the Sun). “From my first author visit in third grade (Patricia Weaver Francisco) to my last week-long writing workshop at St. Ben’s the summer after my junior year of high school, I learned and absorbed so much about craft and the writer life from so many talented, generous authors and poets. I owe a debt of gratitude to these first COMPAS writing teachers: Susan Marie Swanson, Sheila O’Connor, Sandra Benitez, Mary Rockcastle, and so many others.”

She also lent some inspirational words for any aspiring writers!

“Seek out as many opportunities to learn as possible. Learn the craft and then experiment with it. Find other writers who will both teach you and learn alongside you. And most of all, keep moving forward.”

Sara reading her piece at the Landmark Center in 1986

Sara reading her piece at the Landmark Center in 1986

“There will be setbacks and roadblocks and detours along the way, but always, always, keep moving forward.”

It never fails to warm our hearts when we hear about past anthology writers continuing their creative journey. Sara was published in our 8th anthology. This year we’ll publish number 40! Here’s to many more to come!

Tigers Were My Friends
A prose poem by Sara Biren

I remember drawing pictures of zoo animals, all grandly lined up in their cages. They were in big, thick cages, and I would be so careful as I drew the tigers, so I wouldn’t run the orange and black paint. The sky was one line of a bluish-gray mixture, there was never any sun. I was lonely, all alone in my room, and the tigers were my only friends. When I showed my Mom those carefully drawn animals, and she would look sad and say, “who wants to go to the zoo on a cloud day?