From the first time I read a Shel Silverstein poem, I fell in love with words.
I loved how poets painted pictures with words, turned phrases with the whisk of a pen and said things without actually saying them. It was musical, magical.
I devoured the works of my favorite poets like Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes.
In sixth grade, I started to write my own poetry. My teacher was so impressed that she bought me a journal – white linen and covered with little brown teddy bears and red hearts.
I filled the pages with words, words and more words. I was able to say what I was too shy to speak out loud. Pretty soon, I was known as “Marie, the girl who writes poetry.”
As a young adult, the love grew stronger, especially during the 1990s Spoken Word Movement and the arrival of Neo-soul music. I penned reams of poems about love, life, hurts and triumphs. I even put together several makeshift chapbooks.
Pretty soon, I wanted more. I wanted to spend my days studying the masters and learning to be the best. So, I gathered my verses and a graduate school application and shipped them off to a university.
Not long after that, a letter from them arrived and I quickly opened it.
Thank you for your application, but UN-FOR-TU-NATE-LY…
You know the rest.
I was shocked, stunned. It was as if someone had called my baby “ugly.”
I didn’t tell anyone about the rejection. I wallowed in my disappointment and shame alone. Then, after about a week of sulking, I did something that I am not proud of. I took all my poems, chapbooks and journals and packed them up in a box and put them on a shelf and didn’t write poetry again.
That was more than a decade ago and the last time I was a poet.
When people would ask me about that whole “poetry thing,” I would say, “Oh, I don’t write poetry anymore” and scrunch up my nose like poetry was some stain on my blouse.
The truth was, I felt like I was no good at it and was too afraid to ever try again.
This week, though, I stumbled across a couple of my old chapbooks. The memories came back.
I got a little mad at myself. I should have kept going, kept writing until I got better and better. I should have applied again and again until I got in. My love for poetry should have outweighed that rejection letter. It was one person’s opinion. How could I have turned my back on my beloved poetry after one letter?
What have you put on the “shelf” and said, “That used to be me?”
Why not dust it off, pick it up again and try to revisit it? That’s what I plan to do.
Now, I don’t expect to be a world famous poet. I just hope to, at least, start reading it again and, maybe, write it once more. All I can do it try and that within itself is a great gift. Dontcha think?