IN COLLEGE, in Saint Louis University (SLU), I won a special award for winning first prize in poetry twice in a row at the University’s annual Language Awards competition.
Of course I was proud of myself — my poems regularly appearing in the school’s journals, recognition of my work, the trophies and certificates, which sadly, got burned when a fire razed our family compound.
But that’s another story.
This one’s about losing my poetry.
Ooh. That rhymes.
I joined a poetry workshop sometime in the late 1980’s, but I missed the first day and the orientation.
The second day, which I attended, they were all in praises for my work and I felt great, they compared my style with a world renowned poet.
But on the third day, they butchered my compositions pointing out that they wanted more imagery.
They didn’t just butcher my poetry, but also my self-esteem and my desire to write.
Try as I could, I couldn’t write poetry again after that. Not without remembering that word. Imagery...
And I couldn’t feel the smooth flow of words, it felt like they came out in trickles. Like opening a faucet and just a drop comes out, you have to keep turning the faucet on and off to get the water out.
There was no music.
So I ventured into articles, and short stories, and it worked for me. I became a regular contributor to Women’s Journal.
My bio also appeared in Voices, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) anthology of women writers. Some of my poems were featured there as well.
I may have lost my poetry but I was still able to write. The important thing is I continued to express myself and my ideas.
Maybe 12 or 15 years ago, I read an article in Panorama, about this writer who joined the same poetry workshop and experienced what I experienced.
Like me, his poetry was shattered but he went on to say that he knew that this was going to be done- it was precisely the reason the workshop was held.
To shatter the way he wrote so he could become a better poet.
Uh-oh. I missed the point of joining that workshop. Too late.
No regrets though... I’m still a writer.
Still, lesson learned. Always join the first day. And make sure you’re present at the orientation.