Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Poetry of Love

I have great admiration for poets. They capture what novelists like me set out to achieve (and hopefully find success at), 300 pages later.

I attempted to write a haiku in elementary school once. The result was a smile from my teacher, who looked down at my shiny red go-go boots and proceeded to tell me what a strong sense of fashion I'd had. A similar thing occurred to me in art class, after I'd painted thousands of dots into a Seurat-like painting of a clown that my mother still has to this day. "My, you have a most happy outlook on life, don't you?" was the reply I got from the art teacher.
I guess it's no wonder then, how writing poetry and crafts can make me to break into a cold sweat. Who would've thought they'd turn out to be conduits of love?

It was while I was at an
SCBWI conference in Prescott, Arizona 13 years ago (my first and only one), equipped with a rhyming story (not a poem), a sleeping bag, and jar full of trail mix. I remember it being so cold that autumn night in the campground that I'd slept in everything piece of clothing I'd brought, layering jeans and sweaters on top of my pajamas.

The first day of the conference didn't go as I'd hoped. My story was met with polite attention, but with the same sort of "Wow, that's a lovely sweater you have on" reaction that makes you consider making a pyre out of what you've written, and roasting marshmallows on top while you're at it to try and feel better.So when it was announced that the evening's ice-breaker would be "super fun" ie: making crafts with a rep from Crayola Crayons, I was ready to bolt. Thank goodness I didn't. I would have never met my husband. At least, not then.

Rich was the keynote speaker of the conference, and I did my best to avoid making a fool out of myself while gluing shapes of red rocks onto my assigned T-shirt (Warning: do NOT try to place brown blobs of gel paint onto a T-shirt thinking they'll resemble rocks, because they don't. They resemble something else that illicits plenty of potty humor). I found myself laughing at my own ridiculous results. "You really are pretty bad at crafts, aren't you?" Rich joked. He didn't like the rhyming story much, either. But he did like the novel I was working on, and hearing about my life as an ESPN reporter.

Ironically, 13 years later, Rich and I are collaborating on a picture book peppered with rhythmic lines. And the most cherished gifts I've received from writer friends have been samples of their poems.But after nearly breaking a potter's wheel while while learning how to throw (and politely being handed a refund), I have no desire to do anything crafty. It would simply cause me too much stress. I'm the one who buys the sweater in the window of a knitting shop, after spending days convincing the owner to sell it to me, after all, she can easily knit up another one, and I, of course, can not.

So I wear my hand-knitted-by-others sweaters, and keep poems like the one from
Eileen Spinelli displayed on my dining room table. I want to pass it throughout the day and have the pleasure of reading it over and over again.The latest one she kindly sent me for Valentine's, like her others, either takes my breath away or makes me smile. This one did both:  FEBRUARY NIGHT

The roads are dark. The snow is deep.

We hunch against the cold.
And yet the wind snags memories
and fragile hopes unfold,
surprising every wintry heart
grown warmer, lighter now.
Love has a way of finding us
without our knowing how.

by Eileen Spinelli.

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