I still remember the first poem I wrote.
I was the new kid, as usual, in a fourth grade classroom. I had already moved too many times to count and I didn’t have any friends. School was just the place I went while my mother was at work. Each school I attended was at a different level academically than the others, so I fell behind in math and science, but I had no trouble keeping up in English. I could read and write on par with the rest of the students, so I felt comfortable in my English classes.
The teacher was Mrs. Lowe. I can’t remember her face, but I remember she had short (to her chin), dark hair. She wore a dress, and was always smiling. I joined her classroom during a time when she was teaching creative writing. She had us write short stories and read them aloud in class. I wrote about a snowman in the summertime. She also had us recite poetry from memory, and write our own.
While the other students memorized the shortest poems they could find, I memorized a poem called “The Gnome” by Harry Behn.
I saw a Gnome
As plain as plain
Sitting on top
Of a weathervane.
He was dressed like a crow
In silky black feathers,
And there he sat watching
All kinds of weathers.
He talked like a crow too,
Caw caw caw,
When he told me exactly
What he saw,
Snow to the north of him
Sun to the south,
And he spoke with a beaky
Kind of a mouth.
But he wasn’t a crow,
That was plain as plain
‘Cause crows never sit
On a weathervane.
What I saw was simply
A usual gnome
Looking things over
On his way home.
I spent every waking moment memorizing it until I had to present. I think we had a few days, maybe a week. As the children went up, one by one, most of them did a terrific job reciting their poems. When it was my turn, I’ll never forget the look on my teacher’s face when I successfully recited the entire poem. Looking back now, it isn’t the longest poem, but for 9 year old me, it was the longest piece of writing I’ve ever attempted to memorize.
Mrs. Lowe gave me a standing ovation, and told me how impressed she was with me. That small gesture, my first praise beyond my mother, made a huge impact on me. It only solidified when I wrote my first poem.
The Thanksgiving turkey ran away
We tried to catch him everyday
Up and down, left and right
When we’d catch him, he would fight
One day we got him, now it’s through
Now we can make our Thanksgiving stew
I was so proud of this poem. I couldn’t wait to turn it in. When Mrs. Lowe read it, she gave me more praise. I had never felt so uplifted in my life. I wanted to do anything I could to make her happy and proud of me. From that day forth, I became a Poet.
I read all types of poetry, my favorites being Dr. Seuss and Shel Sylverstein.
I couldn’t wait to show Mrs. Lowe every one of my poems. Sadly, I had to move again. Poverty moved us around every few months. I’ll never forget Mrs. Lowe for what she’d done for me. I took poetry with me everywhere I went. It became my escape. My place of comfort. My friend. It helped me make sense of the world. Poetry is everything to me, and I’ll happily do it for the rest of my life.