You’ve heard me say before, poetry saved my life. It did. It does.
Reading and writing poetry, both.
I’ve been writing since I could hold a crayon.
And because things were difficult for me at home, many of the poems were about family issues.
Family poems felt important to write.
But the hard part was not being able to share them with anyone.
The content of those poems felt shameful. Secrets that needed to be kept. Too dangerous to reveal.
For many years, I wrote poetry just for me.
And read whatever collections I found at that struck my fancy–Sharon Olds, Pablo Neruda, Anne Sexton, Phillip Levine, Adrienne Rich, Emily Dickinson, Lucille Clifton, and many others.
But in 1987, I wanted my own poems to matter. I wanted to learn how to write well.
So I signed up for a poetry workshop at the Boston Center For Adult Education with instructor Ottone “Ricky” Riccio.
To this day, Ricky remains one of the finest teachers I have ever known (and I have 5 official degrees, so that’s really saying something). He was firm, but kind. Gentle, but direct. He was a humanitarian and he took such joy in his students’ work. He was humble and loving and generous.
Ricky truly opened the door to writing poetry and welcomed me over the threshold.
His how-to book on writing poetry remains a bible for me:
When I moved from Boston to New Hampshire, I discovered another amazing poetry mentor offering classes–Patricia Fargnoli.
You know how you secretly wish someone would tell you that you were special, that you had talent?
Pat believed in me. She told me what I wrote mattered. She encouraged me to start sending work out. To put together a collection. She wrote me a glowing recommendation when I decided to pursue an MFA.
Patrica Fargnoli remains my mentor, my friend, my poetry mother. I can never repay all she has given me.
Thanks to Pat, family poems were the first collection I assembled, though not my first to be published.
Little did I know what it would feel like to have this book in the world…
[stay tuned — Family Poems Are Hard — part 2 coming soon]