, Gloucester, MA


January 25, 2013

Truth: Stranger than fiction

Some years ago, I attended an evening “poetry event” sponsored by Sawyer Free Library. Consisting of readings by some of Gloucester’s favorite published poets, it concluded with a workshop, dividing the audience into groups, each one guided by a poet.

The Friend Room was filled to capacity, and when the readings ended, people scrambled to the table of “sign-up” sheets, hoping to connect with their poet of choice. The point of the workshop was for all participants to attempt writing a poem. Since I was close to the sign-up table, I got my first choice — Pat Lowery Collins, whom I greatly admired as a poet, artist, and novelist, as well.

I already knew, and dismissively admitted to my group, that I couldn’t write a poem. But I didn’t know that Pat would send me away from the workshop with an observation that has self-validated any strength and direction I might have as a writer today.

She said, “I’ll bet you can write a poem; but, of course, you are primarily an essayist.” I gave the poem a try, and surprised myself by writing what felt like a not-too-bad poem that night; I’ve not written another poem since. But I liked my new label. Scraping ideas from actual experiences brings my words from a deeper place, a stronger place, a place with more reliable roots.

Since receiving one of my always-favorite gifts at Christmas, the current volume of “ Best American Essays,” I’ve been happily engrossed in writings on the most diverse subjects. I run my finger through the table of contents, checking first for authors familiar to me; then some title catches my imagination, so I go there next.

After my curiosity settles, I read Robert Atwan’s foreword. He’s been the series editor for more than 20 years, and his words regarding this particular volume, form an essay in and of themselves.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Your news, your way
Pictures of the Week
Comments Tracker
AP Entertainment Videos
ShowBiz Minute: Ne-Yo, Sharknado, Keys Russell Simmons, LL Cool J Visit Youth at Jail Married Couple Seeks 'Satisfaction' in New Ways Cast on Love, Weather and Stunts of 'Outlander' Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure 'The Bachelorette' and Her Beau Go Public Tatum Says Filming 'Foxcatcher' Was 'tortuous' Was That Harry Potter at Comic-Con? Fox Dons 'Bondage Strap' Skirt at Comic-Con Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out The Rock Brings Star Power to Premiere Uzo Aduba Says Emmy Nod Is 'Crazy' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up Mirren Not Thrilled to Play 'The Queen' on B'way The Rock Finds His Inner 'Hercules' ShowBiz Minute: Hoffman, Oberst, Box Office Shawn Mendes Jumps From Vine to the Music Charts Cook Shifts Gears in 'Planes: Fire and Rescue'