Some time ago a young lady we'll call Z. was referred to me by her English teacher. He thought she had promise as a poet and needed somone outside the education system to show some interest, give her some pointers and encouragement. I was impressed by the material Z. was creating at her age, helped her identify several markets where she might find acceptance. I urged her to look closely at University creative writing programs and teachers. I was there to help her celebrate her first publication in a national literary journal. Then she disappeared.
I learned from my teacher friend that Z. had rebelled against her parents' wishes for a post-secondary education and taken off for New York to become an actress. That wasn't hard to understand. Still something about her tugged at my memory of her, something about her commitment and emotional connection to her writing, her poetry. Had she made a shift to drama, maybe?
Several weeks ago at a local cafe, I saw her come in with several friends. I caught her eye and waved to her. After making her excuses to her companions, she came over and sat with me. I asked her about her New York experience.She told me about acting classes, casting calls; she'd had two amateur parts and an understudy for an Off-Broadway drama. Then I asked her, "What about your poetry? Do you still write?" Her eyes lit up. She told me how she had become involved in some of the New York poetry activities, that perhaps her acting career had suffered because of it. "I didn't spend enough time sucking up and kissing the right assholes" was the way she put it. She'd come home and was working at Wal-Mart while she figured out what to do next. I again mentioned creative writing programs. Her eyes darkened. "Sure, I want to continue writing, but I have this chance to go on tour singing with a country band." She looked at me as if she needed my approval. I smiled and shook my head. "Z., do what you have to. Poetry already wrecked your acting career so don't be surprised if it ruins your music career. I think you were meant to be a poet and nothing can change that. If you became an astronaut, you would still be a poet. A banker and poet if that was your choice. A nun and a poet, a mother/poet." There was a far-away look in her eyes. Then she took my hand. "Thanks, Mr. A." she said and rejoined her friends across the way.
I know she'll do more than write country songs. It's her spirit.