My earliest memory of writing poetry was back in primary school. In Grade 3 I wrote a poem about Springtime. We were probably all told to write a poem about springtime...
My classmates seemed to like the words I created way back then and suggested I share it with our teacher. So, I did that too and our teacher liked it too and asked me to share it with the class.
I cannot recall the exact words of that particular springtime poem. The words have long vanished I'm afraid. However, I have never forgotten the feelings that washed over me knowing other writers liked my words.
That response lit a spark energizing me to continue, to persist. My self belief was instantly boosted. I had been awakened to the power of words- the power of poetry. I wanted more of that feeling and the only way to obtain it was to write more of the same- poetry. It is true that when we feel something we are doing is valued by those around us, an energy is produced and we are more inclined to continue.
When I shared my poem with my father that evening, he listened politely, but I sensed he wasn't completely convinced my spring words were entirely original. At the time I felt a little deflated by his response. I felt I owned those words.
Many years later I have grown to understand more clearly what actually happened in that conversation with my father. I now know that often in those early fragile days of our writing development, we frequently imitate the literary giant to whom we are exposed. It is quite likely I lent a little too heavily on Wordsworth, Keats and Longfellow who were so often part of our poetry tastings back then. But it is here we develop our wings and learn to fly, or write more independently. As Neil Gaiman so succinctly observed, 'First we imitate, then we innovate.'
I have continued to find a place for poetry in my life ever since that springtime poem burst into the light. My poet's heart beats strongly. Poetry remains my oxygen. I spend a lot of my time encouraging the young poets I meet in schools to let poetry reach their eyes, ears and hearts. I want them to feel a surge of energy around their best words just as I did back then and continue to feel, to this day.