Today’s prompt asked for a name in the title, and I tossed this one around for a while before deciding. I wrote one to Amy last night, and I’ve written a lot to my daughter and parents and so on. I considered writing about my best friend in high school, the one who I looked up to as a writer, who went to the New Orleans High School for the Arts for writing our senior year, who I got in trouble for because I included a curse word in his story when I put together the school’s literary journal, who I heard from briefly about 4 years ago and discovered we’d been separated only by a bay and never knew, and who I haven’t heard from since.
But those memories led me instead to the reason I write poetry. I’d fiddled around a bit, always for class assignments, but when, in junior year of high school, Nancy McKee introduced us to E. E. Cummings, I was completely slammed. “You can do this and it’s poetry?” I said to myself. And I wrote like that for a long time. Not anymore, thank goodness, but he’s why I started, and I’ll always love going back to his work for that.
After E. E. Cummings
The first poem I ever memorized
outside of a class assignment
was “since feeling is first.”
I wrote like him for years,
the uncapitalized i, the
syntax combined muddled words
always about love and spring and peace.
I still know that poem by heart,
recite it to my classes,
tell them that I still have the first book
of poems I ever bought
with my own money–a selection of poems
paid for with grease burns
and the smell of vinegar on the floors
of Happy’s New Orleans Style
Chicken-N-Biscuits. And pages,
Not even my favorite poem.
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