Poetry and computer science have more in common than you think, according to this student

Sitting at a desk, staring at a blank screen, struggling to take the idea in your head and make it come alive. It’s a familiar feeling for any artist or creator — and that includes coders and poets, two activities you wouldn’t expect to have much in common.

But Caia Lomeli, a freshman at University of California Santa Cruz who loves computer science and poetry, says you’d be surprised.

“With both poetry and coding, you have to take the building blocks of language, either English or C++, whatever coding language you use, and you make it your own,” says Caia.

Caia is the star of the videos that guide students through the poetry module of our newest curriculum, CS Connections. She first started coding at workshops she attended as a Girl Scout in 6th grade. The sessions helped her understand the basics of computer science through Scratch.

“I thought, ‘Wow, that’s so cool,’” she says. “People my age are making phone games. They’re making apps. They understand how technology works.”

She continued to be interested in computer science throughout school, but didn’t get the chance to take classes in the subject. But now, as a biomolecular engineering student, she’s finding that computer science has connections to more than she expected.

“I had no idea how much programming is useful,” Caia says. “When a lot of people think about computer science, it’s crazy lines of code or it’s not really accessible. I didn’t know that in the lab, programming is such a useful skill, because it allows you to visualize data or make predictions about it. You can trust a computer to do that in a way that you can’t really trust a human.”

While she hopes to use these skills to someday explore bioremediation and restore ecosystems, poetry will always be Caia’s passion. She started writing in 8th grade, but took her poetry to the next level over the past two years when she joined her high school’s poetry team and got involved with Get Lit in Los Angeles. Get Lit is an organization dedicated to honoring the legacy of poets, teaching poetry in schools, and encouraging the work of young poets.

“It’s about recognizing that people from all backgrounds can write poetry and that it’s not just an art form for old dead white men,” says Caia, who has competed in Get Lit’s statewide poetry slams and published some of her poetry through Get Lit’s Emerging Writers Fellowship.

“A lot of people think of computer science or poetry as something to do alone,” she says. “But what I found is that the community in both of those interests is so welcoming and so great. I never would have gotten better at computer science or at poetry if I didn’t have so many people to build off of, or to work with, or to learn from.”

Caia says that something else poetry and coding have in common is that you’re almost guaranteed to be bad at it at first. Like anything else, writing poetry and code require practice and hard work. Caia says it’s important to stick with it and learn from others who have stuck with it.

“I think a lot of people, especially when they care about what they do, refuse to let themselves write something that isn’t great on the first try,” she says. “But once you write it down, then you can go back and edit it, and share it with people, and get feedback. And you can only get better… You can tweak this line in both poetry and coding, or you can improve this part.”

Caia encourages anyone interested in computer science or poetry to seek out others who share their interests and join a community.

“There’s so much you can learn from other people,” she says. “There’s so much other people can learn from you. And I’d love to see people who just have the courage and believe in themselves and their voices to share that with the world.”

Learn more from Caia when you try our new Poem Art Hour of Code activity! Her helpful videos will have you expressing yourself through code and poetry in no time.

— Samantha Urban Tarrant, Code.org

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Code.org® is dedicated to expanding access to computer science increasing participation by young women and students from other underrepresented groups.

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