The month of April is flying by, so I suppose I should do my annual Poetry Month blog. In the past, I have shared my poetry, I have shared the poems of my friends, I have written about poets that I like, and about my feelings towards the craft itself. Today I will write about when I was a brand new poet, with my purple notebook.
I fell in love with poetry when I was 14, sitting in Mrs. Halm’s Freshman English classroom. She had us write a poem of any kind, and I penned several lines about the changes I was going through having left Elementary School and starting High School. She told me it was great, she gave me an A, and I hung it in my locker for the rest of the year. Sometime after that, I acquired my purple notebook.
My purple notebook was more important to me then any other book or folder in my backpack. Sure, I’d forget my math notes, but I would never forget my purple notebook. It was full of my poems, and quotes I had heard that I loved, and versus from other poets that resonated with me. Also during my Freshman year, Mrs. Halm asked me to contribute something to the school literary magazine- which now that I think about it, we only did when I was a Freshman, and I really would have liked that as a Senior. But I digress…
Anyway, she asked me to write a short story, so I did, and a lot of girls at school complimented me on it. It was the first time I received real recognition for writing from my peers, because it’s not like any of my grade school chums actually read the literary magazine that I contributed to back then. Plus, that was all teacher-guided poetry- not anything from my heart. So sometime in my Junior year, friends started inquiring what I was writing in my purple notebook. They had assumed it was a sort of diary, and when I said it was full of quotes and poems, they were surprised. I had started sharing some of my poems with my friends, and they all liked them. Then came my Senior year, and everyone was scrambling to find quotes for their Senior yearbook section.
I had one friend named Beth, and I remember sitting in class with her as she asked if she could borrow my book to look for a quote. She read much of it, and the compliments she gave me about my writing have stuck with me some 20 odd years later. We were not good friends; good acquaintances, perhaps- but I have not seen her since graduation. Still, I have never forgotten her due to her reaction to my writing. In fact, when I wrote my novella, I had the events of the book take place on her birthday, as a small homage to someone who bolstered my spirits once.
Shortly after this experience, I gained the confidence to share my work with a broader community- at which point I found the now defunct poetry.com. I mean, it’s not really dead, you can go there, it’s active- but it is not the site that I used 20 years ago. On that site, I was able to submit poetry online. At the end of my Senior year, quite literally the day after the end of classes, I got a letter in the mail saying that one of my poems would be included in an anthology. I’m pretty sure it was one of those things where they pick a bunch of poems and then try and get you to buy the anthology, but it was a big deal for me at the time, if only from a self-esteem point of view.
Fast forward through college, where I met others who enjoyed my writing, not just friends- professors, too. I received an A for a play I wrote for fun and submitted as my final English project. I was told to submit my poetry to the literary magazine, though I never got around to it. I received A’s on every monologue I wrote for theater class. I received A’s on every paper I wrote, in fact. I aced every essay portion of every test except for French. And all the while, I kept scrawling in my little purple notebook. When Mark and I met when we were 20, I remember reading him a couple of poems. He didn’t know a poem from a hole in the wall, but he told me it was more beautiful than the things he’d read in school, and it made me start to love him a little. To this day, my husband has me read him everything I write- the only things he hasn’t heard are the books, because I just don’t have the time to read those aloud. Reading itself is not easy for him, but he loves the words I put together.
Around the time that Mark and I broke up back in 2003, my purple notebook got filled finally,, and then packed away in a suitcase in the back of my closet with the others. “The others” are all the journals I kept from the age of 14 onward. I journaled constantly, as it was my main coping mechanism through my teens and 20s, but then one fateful day in 2007, I had a little bit of a meltdown. I dragged that suitcase down from the shelf in the closet, and I destroyed 15 notebooks. Most were journals, one was a dream diary, one or two were full of poems. Only one survived death- my purple notebook. I could not bear myself to get rid of it, because while it was a symbol of pain like the others, it’s greatness far outweighed it’s sorrow. I have a huge Tupperware container filled with special items from my life, and I put it in that box, tucked safely away. I could not say goodbye to that purple notebook- that would be too much. That would be too final.
You know, if you are subscriber to my Patreon, I urge you to check in tomorrow. I intend to post a poem from that notebook- something I wrote when I was only 16, and the first poem that I truly shared with my mother. I performed it for her and my Aunt Ka, and they were blown away. My mother explained that she didn’t know I could write like that, which is saying something because she thought I was the best writer in the world since I was about 6 years old. I just have to dig up the notebook and transcribe it, which will happen sometime in the afternoon.
I suppose I should take this opportunity to hype my Patreon? It’s $5 a month, and you get a weekly update from me- always new stuff that you can’t get anywhere else. I know I need to put some more effort into it, and if I really think about it I should be moving half the blog over there and charging folks, but somehow that still makes me feel grimy inside. So instead I offer you the latest in my writing world, available only on Patreon. I am considering adding a $1 tier as well, where I perhaps share two items a month or so, but that also means I have to ramp up the offerings for my $5 a month patrons. See, now I’m just thinking out loud…just check out my Patreon, and consider joining up if you really love my stuff. Here is a link.
Anyway, that is the tale of my purple notebook, that traveled with me for about 10 years and kept me sane during that time. That was my Xanax before I had Xanax. So happy Poetry Month, and happy Tuesday. I hope your words come together for you today.