You could say I was raised on poetry. My Dad read poetry to my sisters and I instead of bedtime stories.
The Highway Man, The Pirate Don Dirk of Dowdee, Dilliki Dolliki Dinah, and Annabel Lee were my favorites. He memorized many poems and would recite them to us as we weeded the garden or on long car trips. He would sort of just burst into poetry like a musical. (He often burst into song too...) One night, he and I were driving home from Springfield, MO and he recited poetry for the entire hour and a half without ever repeating a poem or pausing to think of a new one. They just came rolling out of him. So I grew up loving poetry.
When I was in 6th grade, the local jr. college held a writing contest. Winners would be published in their magazine and poetry was one of the categories.
You must understand, I had never studied poetry in school --writing or reading. I was so excited to write my first poem. I was sure I would win and be published! The theme was "Enchantment" so I wrote a poem describing an enchanted lake in the middle of a forrest. I even used my parent's typewriter to type up my poem. I turned it in to my reading teacher and waited with breathless anticipation for her response.
The next day, she placed my paper on my desk and walked away without a word. At the top was written,
I was crushed. I knew she hated it. I hadn't even known that poetry needed punctuation. I knew it should rhyme and that the lines needed to have a rhythm that matched. I randomly added commas and periods and resubmitted my poem. She never said anything about it. I did not win the poetry anything. (Though my best friend won and was published.)
This experience effectively murdered my confidence with poetry. I continued to write poetry, but rarely showed it to anyone.
When I was 14 or so, I wrote a poem for my grandfather. He was undergoing bypass surgery for his heart. Seven- Bypass- Surgery. He had been writing family history stories and some creative fiction and trying to get published, but no one was interested. Except his grandkids, who loved to sit around him and listen. He was a magical storyteller. I wanted so much to tell Grandpa how much I loved him and that I liked his stories. So I wrote him this poem and snuck it on the table at his house--that was almost more than my courage could muster. I was pretty sure that it was overly sentimental and no good, and yet it was me and it was what I wanted to tell him. Grandpa loved my poem. He loved it so much, that he kept showing it to people, which embarrassed me deeply. I was certain that Grandpa only loved it because he loved me and everyone else who read it would see exactly how amateur-ish and unoriginal it was. I was almost rude to my Uncle Joe, who tried to talk to me about it. I was so afraid he was going to criticize my poetry that I ran away. Now with 20 years perspective I think he was just trying to encourage me.
I still have no confidence regarding my poetry and yet I can't help writing it every now and then.
Funny the impact a teacher can have just by saying nothing. It is a lesson I try to remember with my piano students and my own children.
Incidentally, my DH wooed me with poetry. His love of great poetry, the poetry he wrote, and especially the poems he wrote about me stole my heart away. I had always dreamed of being one of those ladies who walk in beauty
And now I was.
I reminded him of that recently and wondered aloud if he might ever write me love poems again. I guess inspiration hasn't struck recently... :P