I could start this post talking about Mrs. Sullivan, who helped our fifth-grade class publish a book of poems called “Pegasus.” I could also talk about Mrs. Gorychka, who had us write a lot of poetry in her creative writing class that I took in 10th grade. But my journey into poetry kicked into high gear when my mom’s cancer returned in 2007.
She was supposed to have died sometime between fifth and 10th grade, but she hung on. This time she wasn’t going to pull through. So I turned to poetry. Only poetry seemed strong enough, yet it was short enough to keep me from getting bogged down. I could take a single image — a slice of apple pie, a bluebonnet — and capture a moment I didn’t want to lose. I wrote 72 poems. Actually, I wrote more than a 100, but some of them really sucked. I’ve revised the remaining ones a dozen times or more.
After my mom died, I thought I’d never write another poem. Enter Susan Wooldridge’s book Poemcrazy, which my Tuesday writers’ group took up. That book got me playing with words and experimenting again. Since then, our group has become all poetry, all the time. We’re on our fourth book now. We’re all getting better.
Only recently did I start putting poems up on my blog. It has been both scary and rewarding. The scary part is obvious. The rewarding part is that people seem to see things in my poems that I can’t — not so much hidden meaning as layers of meaning. So when I wrote a poem about laundry, and people asked if there had been a lot of tension in my home lately, well, um, yeah. They were right. I loved that poetry found things that I didn’t know were there.
So I keep hanging out here at Tweetspeak and in my poetry group. I subscribe to Every Day Poems, and I read American Life in Poetry and the Writer’s Almanac, looking for a good poem. Yours or mine. It doesn’t matter.
. . . . .
Mom and her five grandchildren made the cover
of a new cancer book: “The Smile Never Fades.”
My daughter, my nephew, and my oldest niece
smile big, hopeful smiles.
My son tries not to smile, while still looking
My 2-year-old niece, safe in my mother’s arms,
wails. She’s done being nice.
As soon as the photo shoot is over, she shrieks,
sticks her thumb in her mouth,
throws herself on the floor.
If I could, sweetheart,
I would grab my blankey,
lay myself down next to you.
You won’t have to smile anymore.
Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99— Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In May we’re exploring the theme Roses.
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