I often joke that poetry was my first language, but the truth is, poetry was my first language. I remember clearly feeling like I did not fit into this world from a young age. UNTIL I started writing poetry. Ahhhhh, eight years old, alone in my lilac bedroom, happily poeting while the Monkees (pre-adolescence) and David Bowie (adolescence) played on my turntable. Chchchchchanges.
The minute I started writing poems, I felt my soul settle and my heart grin. At last I understood how to hear myself! At last, I understood how to hear others!
When college came around, I went to the University of Illinois to study advertising. 1. Because I discovered in high school that I loved putting words with pictures. And 2. No one told me I could get a degree in poetry (!!!) It took a few decades, but I now see how the universe was simply making sure I had everything I needed for a really blessed life.
After graduation, I got a job at Spiegel Catalog writing copy for the men’s and kid’s fashion departments. I loved it. Then I saw an ad for the “Green Mill Poetry Slam” in the Chicago Reader. Poetry Slam? I pictured people in a room whacking each other with notebooks. I had to go see for myself what it was about. From the second I walked into the Green Mill Lounge, I was smitten. An emcee with a top hat was hosting poetry. A woman on stage was dancing poetry. And there was an audience who cheered poetry. Performed poetry! And came back the next week for more poetry!
I went back the next week too and signed up for the open mic. I got on stage, hands shaking. My poem was called “Why Truth Shouldn’t Be Spelled with U.” After I read it, the audience clapped, and I immediately felt like I had what I can only describe as a spiritual chiropractic adjustment. I looked over and saw the top-hatted emcee standing to the side of the stage with a smile that said, “We got her,” like some sort of guardian angel who had just done his job very well.
I never looked back. I quit my full-time job at Spiegel (my father was aghast but quickly came around once he realized I would still have health insurance) and went freelance to have more time and flexibility in my schedule. My life became about copywriting and poetry on a whole new level.
That was 36 years ago (give or take a year) and my life is still exactly that: finding the beautiful balance between writing poems and copy that, if I do my job right, feels like poetry. I never want to lose that feeling of my soul feeling settled in my skin. Of my heart grinning. Of poetry bringing me back to my center and then bringing me forward to the center of others.
I’m so happy you found me here. I hope you find you here, too.