“Gwendolyn Brooks is coming to town!” My then 6th grade teacher (and now friend) bubbled with enthusiasm. The local community art organization arranged for the Pulitzer Prize winning poet to visit our small seaport town. I think it glossed over most of the class; we were after all only 11 years old.
“I really want you to come to this,” she said looking directly at me. She was right I had to be there. I was trying to find my voice as a writer. I’d written some short stories and poems but didn’t know if they were any good.
Often times we look for external validation, especially writers. We constantly think: Is this good? Does this make sense? Would my words help anyone? Am I relevant? Being that young, I had far too many insecurities to answer those questions for myself, but Spirit intervenes and the universe gives you exactly what you need, when you need it. That is what Ms. Brookes did for me. I don’t recall all of our conversation but I remember how I felt afterwards – empowered. My teacher asked me later that evening what I thought about Gwendolyn Brooks and all I could say was that she had a lovely soul.
I kept on writing. And I still ask those questions from time-to-time: Is this good? Does this make sense? Is anybody out there reading this stuff? Is what I’m saying helping anyone? Am I relevant? By reading the works of Ms. Brookes, Langston Hughes, Katherine Anne Porter, Nikki Giovanni, John Keats, I learned that the human soul is resilient and poetry…feeds the soul.
No introductions necessary.
…You say that I’m wrong for/Stating my opinion to you/You say that I’m wrong and there’ll be quiet consequences too/But I know my rights babe/There’ll be no law abridging The freedom of my speech/Or the right for me to petition for a remedy of grievances…
[By the way she’s singing to America]