Monday, September 22, 2008

Love at First Write

It defies the thirty years that have passed, how clearly I recall the ruler drawn faultlessly in a small, tan composition book. The words beneath it, so precise and right, were written in fabulous first grade hand underneath. Love burst forth for what I had accomplished - not copying words of another, but crafting my own description of this measure I had made which seemed beyond improvement. It was simple and felt perfect and I had my first glance at who I was: a girl of words.

It was the book, Listen Children, an anthology of Black Literature edited by Dorothy S. Strickland , that affected me more than any other during my childhood. A gift from a neighbor, Listen Children contained poems, stories, biographies, and speeches, and I memorized most of it. This book was my initial introduction to poetry. I performed "Way Down In the Music," by Eloise Greenfield, at my first talent show.

In fifth grade I entered my original work, "Black Boy," into a poetry contest. I'd written it in fourth grade, but Masterman started in fifth, and that was the first poetry contest to which I had been given access. At this nationally recognized school, uncontested as the very best in the city, I competed equally against all other grades through twelfth, and won first place. The questions regarding the poem's true authorship were meaningless to me. This victory was defining.

And so, here I am.

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