This past Saturday the winners of 54th Annual Poetry Contest sponsored by the CNY branch of the National League of American Pen Women and the Syracuse Post Standard were honored at a reading at the library in Liverpool. The contest is open to poets from kindergarten age to adults. I've entered the contest in the adult category almost every year since about 1990 and have won honorable mentions, third place twice and second place once. This year I was honored to receive first place.
At award ceremonies other years I have cringed when some of the youngsters have read their poems, wishing someone had spent some time preparing them for the public speaking part of being a poet. Often very wonderful poetry got lost in the terror of having to stand in front of a room full of people reciting the words. It was totally different this year. Some of the young poets had even memorized their work....certainly a humbling experience for me.
I absolutely loved the poem I submitted this year, although when I sent it off, I was certain my chances at even an honorable mention would be slim. One never knows what others are looking for in these contests, and typically the poems I write that I really like fall short. When I got the phone call I had won, and that this particular poem had been selected, I was floored, to say the least. It's the only really good thing that's happened in awhile. I needed that success.
My fear of flubbing my reading due to the level of Vicodin in my veins was great. I was one of the very last to read, and the poems read before me, by all ages, were absolutely fantastic. I sat there thinking, "It's so hard to imagine that my poem compares to these others; they are so fine." I knew I had to be "on".
And then I began to read, and I fell in love with my poem all over again. It's a long poem about a really bad day my friend had when a neighbor's dog got into her chicken coop. I gave it the title "The Last Straw" as it chronicles all that goes wrong that day. Folks laughed in the right places, though. They "got" it. I loved reading it. Their applause seemed genuine, more than the polite "oh you won a contest" clapping I've heard before. I walked away, for the first time, feeling as if I'm really a writer.
That's what I'm going to tell the surgeon Wednesday: I'm a writer! Hurry up and fix this shoulder. I need to write. I need to get out there and read my poems to more people. That's what I do. I'm a writer. Fix me up so I can get back to doing what I need to do. Fast.