“I wrote my very best poem while sitting on the hen-house. Though even that isn’t a very good poem. I have decided my poetry is so bad that I mustn’t write any more of it.”
– Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle
These opening thoughts of Cassandra’s in I Capture The Castle make me giggle and groan remembering my own early attempts at poetry.
My first creative writing class at university was Poetry 494.We were a small group. A bakers’ dozen of writers sitting around a long table. Fred Wah, poet, professor and winner of the Governor Generals’ Award for Waiting For Saskatchewan was sitting at the head of the table. He looked very serious with a fat stack of our manuscripts sitting in front of him.
The pile was arranged alphabetically. From the A’s through the Z’s Fred opened every portfolio explaining the merits of each one and the reasons he’d selected it for this class. Alphabetically, mine was the last manuscript in the pile. I waited in eager anticipation, telling myself I would be content with any scrap of compliment or encouragement.
Fred opened my portfolio then paused. He said my name, and then looked around the table for me. I smiled. He looked back down at my submission and began shaking his head. Finally he spoke. “I’ve got no idea why I let you in this class,” he said.
Truth was, I had no idea either. Like Cassandra, I’d never thought much of my own poetry. I was delighted just to be in that classroom. That day I filled two notebook pages with poetic terms I had never heard of, and names of poets I had never read. Clearly, I had a lot to learn. And I did learn. Within a year I’d developed an understanding and appreciation for Language poets and poetry and had published my first of many poems.
These days I write mostly Narrative poems.
And my favorite perch for writing poetry… is on a train.