At the top of the stairs, in my grandparent’s small wartime house, where they raised seven children with two bedrooms and one bathroom, hung a red brocade curtain. Behind that drapery, a magical place lay in wait. Yes, it was the linen closet, but alongside sheets and towels? Books. Children’s books that belonged to my mother and her five sisters: The Bobbsey Twins, National Velvet, Nancy Drew, What Katy Did, a Disney book starring Annette Funicello on the cover, and even a couple Hardy Boys. I remember stealing away from the rest of the family downstairs, and the tremble in my hands as I opened a book. Once I was able to read (I was an early reader, and have a memory of my father getting me to read King Solomon’s Mines out loud while a friend visited), I devoured each story, then snuck away and reread them, every chance I got.
Huh. Is it coincidental that I have dark red curtains on my living room and office windows? In these rooms live a lot of books. in front of these curtains, my daughter sings…
Recently, I was invited to read at a local event with the theme of water, which was also a fundraiser for Pull Together. My book, The Pull of the Moon, was most likely the reason I was invited, because moons pull tides, and tidal waters… you get the picture.
I decided to read poetry instead.
Right now I am currently editing my first manuscript of poems, and it feels slightly possible that one day, I might have a book of poetry with my name on it. That may be years away yet, but the editing is a step in that direction.
The reading was another. Because in order to read poems with your name on them, you kinda hafta say that you’re a poet. Or at least pretend to be one. This is a big identity switch for me, since I’ve been in fiction mode for years. I’ve still been writing poems, studying craft, getting poetry published in journals–even reading them, one at a time, at open mics, here and there. But this recent reading was different, because I read four poems, and only poems. And people laughed at the right times. They even clapped after every one.
Here’s the funny thing. What I felt at that reading was just like when I pulled back that red curtain: excitement over words. It had nothing to do with publishing or making them perfect, and everything to do with trying something out of the norm—even a touch forbidden.
I’m not sure if I’m ready to answer to poet just yet. Right now, I’m someone who writes poetry, and gives poems to her Dad for Father’s Day. But the curtain is there, and my hand is on it.