Ambrosia for the Soul

Yes, I know NaNo starts today. I have even written a few words already, and will write more later. First, however, I want to say something about this weekend’s conference.

It was my first time to teach at a writers’ conference instead of just attending. I worked very, very hard to prepare for the class I taught and I think it went well both times.

After teaching my second class, there was one class period remaining. Often by that time at a writers’ conference, my brain is overstuffed and I find it hard to get much out of that last class. This time I had signed up for a class on advanced techniques for poetry and I honestly wasn’t expecting much.

I should say that my relationship with poetry has been a rocky one for the last couple of decades, at least on the writing side of it. I love poetry very much and it has enriched my life since childhood. I started writing poems as a teenager and rather fancied myself as a poet.

By the time I was a mother of young children, however, poetry was one of the things that got squeezed out because I didn’t have time for it. I was thrilled that my daughter Mary took to writing poems as if born for it, and she is a much better poet than I could ever be. I stopped thinking of myself as a poet for many years.

Then, six or seven years ago, I decided to challenge myself by writing a poem a day for several months. It was so hard to get back into it. Most of what I wrote was laughably bad–but some of it wasn’t. The more I wrote, the more I felt that it fed something deep inside me. Still, when the experiment ended, so did my poem writing.

Two years ago, when I decided to enter the writing contest at the East Texas Christian Writers Conference, I entered in each of the three categories. To my surprise, my essay won first place (and the grand prize) and my poem came second. So last year I entered a couple more poems and they came in first and second.

Now despite this, I never attended a poetry workshop at this conference. Somehow, I guess I thought it was frivolous. The same man always teaches them, and though I greatly enjoy his poems when he reads them aloud at the banquet every year, I never bothered to look up his credentials, and that is why I went into the workshop yesterday with very low expectations.

Boy, was that a mistake! Donn Taylor has a PhD in poetry. I so rarely even meet someone who shares my love of great classic poems, and I have never had a chance to learn from a master of the craft. I’m telling you, I almost wept tears of happiness sitting there in that basement room. I’m tearing up now just thinking about it!

That last hour of the conference fed my soul and spirit in a way I find hard to explain. My inner poet has been starved for so long, and I didn’t even know it. Instead of walking out of that conference overcome with exhaustion and a too-full brain, I walked out feeling rejuvenated, reborn, and reinvigorated. I have a poetry project I have been putting off for months and now feel that maybe I am ready to tackle it. Oh, how I love language!

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