At the time we filmed Caden, I had no idea that he already had and has a deep relationship with poetry. He reads it and writes it. I thought we were filming someone from Fort Payne who loves baseball.
During the shoot I remember thinking, What a cool person, to sit here and read poetry for us with his baseball team practicing all around him. It was summer, and we showed up in the middle of practice. Okay, let's film Caden reciting Whitman in the batting cage. Okay, now on the pitching mound ... I wondered if he was nervous or concerned about what his teammates were thinking.
Caden says he was slightly nervous.
"It's a little different, baseball and poetry," he says. "Doesn't really go hand in hand."
Caden says he got the sense that his teammates were confused more than anything. They didn't know that he was, as he says, "into literature."
What he means specifically: They didn't know that he's an award-winning published poet and essayist. He's been recognized three times by the prestigious Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. To give you a sense of how prestigious ... past winners include Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Robert Redford, Lena Dunham, and Ken Burns.
Caden says he considers poetry "an expression of exactly what you're thinking. Writing makes up for what spoken words can’t."
Obviously Caden did a wonderful job reading Whitman. But, he says, his favorite poet is Robert Frost. "It may sound cliché. But I like his shorter poems about nature. They stick out to me. The message is always clear, and they always flow eloquently."
He's also a music fan, and especially a big fan of hip hop. "If you look at those songs, they have a lot of rhyme schemes. It's just poetry spoken in a different way."
As for Caden's own poems, he has his own process. He never sits down and tries to write a poem. He waits for some external source to inspire him.
"From there, it's easy," he says. "I just put it on paper."
The last poem he wrote was inspired by change. He was moving schools - from Fort Payne, a medium-sized school in rural Northeast Alabama, to Jefferson County International Baccalaureate in Birmingham.
"The Washington Post said it was the number nine most challenging high school in America," Caden says. "It really swept me off my feet at first."
The poem he wrote is called "No Remorse, No Regrets."
Will I succumb, or will I emerge stronger than ever?
And will stronger than ever be strong enough?
"I had to adjust, but I adjusted well," Caden says. "Well, with playing baseball it's a little iffy sometimes ..."
And, as for reading poetry at one of his baseball practices while being filmed by a film crew.
"Oh I'd definitely do it again."
Also, I just have to add, I disagree with Caden about baseball and poetry. I think he showed us that they do go hand in hand.
By filmmaker Jennifer Crandall, as told to writer Liz Hildreth