I believe that I have a “Sundry” of work filed away for safekeeping, I begin writing at the age of five or six; I spent summers with my Aunt Vina, my daddy’s sister. She introduced me to libraries, Big Chief tablets and big pencils. It was my job as she, my Uncle Wesley went to work, and I was under the care of the housekeeper, to write what I had done during the day. Once dinner was over and bedtime neared, she would gather everyone to listen to my accounting of the day.
Of course, I had help with many of the words, but at least one paragraph emerged before the sun would set on Birmingham, Alabama. These sentences included a walk to the local library, lunch, and the discovery of a dead bird, mouse or other creatures that made my Aunt Vina put her hands over her ears. At summers end I would return home to Burleson Mountain, life was different there, very different. No matter where I would hide my Chief tablet my mother would find it, throwing it into the stoves wood box. This act would follow with a lecture on the waste of time my summers were, and that she might refuse to let me go the next summer, that threat she held over me no matter the day, month, year. It took weeks of crying me to sleep before I adjusted to my mother and the anger she carried for me.
I grew from child to teen and I continued to write, keeping a journal, only to have my mother find them and toss them into the trash. Years of stories and my life covered with last night’s dinner scraps. I stopped writing. I was still in my teens when I wrote a story, sent it off and received a letter back, not a form letter, but one that encouraged my writing, to find my voice. Maybe I am still in search of that voice, sometimes I wonder!
This love of writing stayed buried until one day I signed up for a creative writing course at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Always on the back burner was the hope of writing. My professor told me that I was a natural storyteller, but I would need to work on the many components of writing. I did, and this took me right into retirement, yes, I had a day job. It does not matter how much you want to spend your life creating or whatever your desire, your passion is; you must pay the bills.
With a decent steady income, I was free to write. It sounds so easy when you think about it, but it took a long time staring at a blank page before my brain was jump started to create something, anything. I had so many ideas and the short stories poured out of me, my computer folders were full and organized. I could not send anything off…what if they rejected my newborn creation. Well, they did, each time I placed them lovingly in a box that fit under my bed.
Over a period of five years, I had enough rejection form letters to wallpaper any room in my tiny apartment. This including my divorce papers, the lease on an apartment, title to a car, all of the things needed to survive as a single person.
Within the following years I discovered poetry, many forms, structured, non-structured. I loved it all but my favorite was Sylvia Plath. I felt that I knew her, and that my life was filled with drop-offs, pitfalls and bad luck. I begin to write poetry about my life, nine poetry books later I wrote a bio of my daughter’s life she died in 2010, a picture book of my constant four-legged companion Mason and a coffee table book of my personal artwork. I continue to wear many hats. I have begun work on my own life story; it may be the last chapter.
This brings my post to full circle and a provocative question to readers and writers everywhere…is poetry dying.
A character in the film Dead Poets Society said:
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
Wordsworth described poetry like this: “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected in moments of tranquility”.
I believe that poetry has an important role and function in society, just as poets do. Poetry now, in its fundamental value, however, means nothing more than using relatable mental images in order to communicate profoundly significant truths about logic and life to human beings.
Peace and Love