Article - 04/02/01

A Poet's Story:
One man's struggle with depression
led him to a career expressing himself
By Stephen Watson

A native Philadelphian, Shawn Simmons, has compiled a book of poetry, A Question of Reality, which exemplifies his experience of life in our area. He shares with us this poetic approach of expressing the feelings of adversity that have come with his growing up in the Philadelphia area, being a full-time college student and dedicated employee, having had friends killed and over-dose on drugs, and the struggle of overcoming many personal crises.

Simmons was born in Philadelphia on Oct. 17, 1979, and grew up in a lower middle class family with his older brother. He graduated from Lincoln High School in 1997. He is lucky he has made it this far, though, because in 1995 he almost died when complications developed during a routine tonsillectomy operation. He then endured eight surgeries over two months to correct the problem. Later on, after having gone through a series of depressions throughout his life, he was diagnosed with clinical depression.

After making it through his hardships, he proceeded to work full-time immediately after graduating high school in order to support his parents who had both lost their jobs within days of each other. He eventually made his way into a local community college, and is now a junior at Temple University.

"I began writing when I was 13. I was a typical love sick little kid who was looking to vocalize those teenaged feelings. Then when I got very ill with the clinical depression, I became very open with what was going on inside my head and heart," said Simmons.

"I became almost too honest with myself and the emotions of being 15 and knowing your time is limited. So much came from that time, emotionally and in a literary sense," he added.

When his family needed him during their rough times, he began developing most of the style he has today: snappy, sarcastic, rage filled, 'why is this happening to me?' type of work. Over time, his poetry began to pile up and the work began to take form. He has had some very influential people pushing him and telling him he is good enough to do what he had dreamed of, which was to someday publish a book. His poetry had previously been published in numerous anthologies, but he wanted the next step.

When he went to Temple, he met a professor named Philip Stevens, who sat down with him and told him he was good enough to do it. The dream had now become a reality. Simmons then assembled the best team of people he could find to work with, including fellow Philadelphian poet Shawn Berk, artist Nick Smolenski, and Webmaster Stephen Watson (the author of this article). We have all come together to help this project, A Question of Reality, take flight.

Simmons' life has become this book. He has gone through his experience of life in our area, and put it to poetry to share with us all. He has a small following of people who have been interested in him for a while, and anticipates networking to people all across the country.

What Simmons hopes is that his stepping out of his depression and into the light will show other people with clinical depression that they aren't alone. Along with this hope, he is showing all of us that people his age, who are in their late teens and early 20s, can do what they love, enjoy life, follow their dreams, and make a difference by sharing their experiences with their fellow human beings.

Simmons plans to release the book some time in November via a local publisher. It will be available Online and in local bookstores. For more information about A Question of Reality, visit, or contact Simmons directly at his email address,