Poetry Love Affair

Poetry at Brookgreen Gardens
Poetry on display at Brookgreen Gardens

When I first started writing, it was poetry. I don’t know why. I wasn’t exposed to it as a child, as far as I can remember. I just started writing it.

Fiction came along on the heels of that, but for years, poetry was my focus. By high school, I was writing a poem a day. It didn’t matter if it was some horrid three line thing about light coming down through tree leaves. If it was all I could get out that day, then so be it, but I needed to write something.

In high school, I met the woman I came to think of as my poetry mentor: Ms. Niemeyer. I met her when she tried to start a poetry club (which didn’t last longer than one meeting). Ms. Niemeyer took me on as a sort of apprentice. Every week, she would read over my poetry and attack the pages with red pen. Sometimes, it felt as if those pages were bleeding. To this day, if I edit by hand, it’s with a red pen.

She wanted me to apply to the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities to attend their high school program. I did but I was rejected. Ms. Niemeyer was convinced I was the next Robert Frost or Elizabeth Bishop and was enraged by my rejection. She wrote an angry letter to the school and stopped donating.

I couldn’t understand it. Yes, I was sad at the rejection. I cried after reading the letter. However, it seemed completely plausible that there were others better than me. The next year, I applied to attend the school’s summer program.

For some reason, Ms. Niemeyer hated that. I suppose she thought I should snub the school just like they snubbed me. But they’re turning me down just made me want to try again and, this time, harder. I thought perhaps I hadn’t picked my strongest poems.

I was rejected at first but a spot opened up later when another student backed out. I had to be given a scholarship so I could attend. It was the best six weeks of my life.

However, when I returned to school, Ms. Niemeyer cast aside my poems like they were trash. I thought they were some of the best I had ever written but she refused to even work on them. Her rejection confused and hurt me. I didn’t show her anything else of mine after that.

At the age I’m at now, I wouldn’t be afraid to ask Ms. Niemeyer what her problem was. But, at the time, I was a timid soul. I could only back away in confusion and hurt.

Once I entered college, I got out of writing a poem a day, though I still wrote. In fact, I published poems regularly in the school’s literary magazine, The Snow Island Review, and was a staff member. But the poetry came to a gradual halt.

After graduation, I became more focused on my fiction to the exclusion of anything else. I have tried to write again. In fact, last year, I won an honorable mention in the Sidney Lanier Poetry Award Contest out of Tryon, North Carolina. Today, I wrote the rough draft of a villanelle. I still read poetry. Robert Frost makes me long for deep woods and Mary Oliver makes me cry for beauty.

In short, I still love poetry. But the affair has quieted to something just shy of a memory. I long to fill up composition notebooks with poems again. Every now and again, I try to rekindle that love affair. One day, perhaps I will.

Is there something that you like to do, some hobby or habit, that you want to get back into? Why haven’t you? Feel free to comment below! And don’t forget that the next installment of The Bookwyrm Series comes out next month!

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