As I’ve mentioned before, I often shared my poetry writing with the school guidance counselor. She was the one who encouraged me to another step in developing my skills.
She was the one who would hang posters on the wall of the cafeteria of scholarship contests and other scholarly opportunities. I first heard about the South Carolina Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities by spotting a poster in the cafeteria. The Governor’s School was offering a 5-week program in the summer for various visual and performance arts, music and creative writing. The poster included details about a one-day workshop at a local community college to offer a chance to work on poetry and learn more about the summer program. Even though I was attending a high school in Georgia, I remained eligible to apply because I still lived in South Carolina.
I signed up to attend the Saturday workshop. I remember the teacher, George Singleton, being very cool and funny. And we worked on an exercise called a Minute, basically writing a poem in 60 syllables (title included). This is what I came up with.
I want to know what prompted an image like this, why I chose this feeling of being trapped. I don’t recall ever being backed up into a corner literally, but there were plenty of moments where I felt trapped and insecure. Where I had been picked on and teased and there didn’t seem to be consequences for the perpetrator. Or maybe I was remembering moments in eighth grade English where a girl sitting on the other side of the room often just stared me down.
Standing in the Corner with No Way Out
Her scrunched up face
The deathly glare she gives me
Shivers go up and down my spine
Because I don’t know what I did
I looked around the crowded room
To possibly catch another witness
I decided to apply for the program. It was a cool prospect to have an opportunity for professional feedback. And I knew there was definite room for improvement.
After submitting an application and making it through that initial hurdle, there was a second round of narrowing down potential participants: an in-person interview and a timed writing piece. Since the Governor’s School program was open to students across the state, they set up a few different locations for these interviews. I went to the one in Columbia.
So in January 2000, I had my first interview ever, being reviewed by three people. That was awkward, but it wasn’t as painful as it could have been. For the writing part, we were given some type of prompt and a certain amount of time to write. I have no idea what the prompt was, but this is the poem I submitted.
I have to say I’m impressed with the length, given there was a deadline. I’m impressed with a few of the images/metaphors used, especially comparing used cups (likely containing remnants of red wine) with wounded soldiers.
To my knowledge, though, none of my cousins has been left behind after a family Christmas party.
Scraps of ripped, torn, and shredded paper
Adorned the plush beige carpet,
To the point where no amount of creeping
Across the room
Could keep someone from hearing the crackle.
Empty plastic cups on the counter tops
Look like soldiers
Lining up for their return
After a lost battle.
Music is still blaring
From the joyful songs
That were played.
Paintings hang on the wall now
By one hinge,
Because a certain someone couldn’t keep
Their hands off them.
The huge plant mom insists on keeping
Is drooping lower than the frown
When my younger brother was refused candy.
Upstairs in the hallway,
A little cousin must have wanted
To leave a few surprises
Of his own because
A path of his
Miniature racing cars was spread
Out along the way.
I’ll have to remember to thank him later
For the free ride he sent me on.
Memories of the earlier events come
Flooding back and the
Image of fights in the glistening white
Snow brought a smile to my face:
A muffled whisper broke me from my thoughts,
So I went to my room
Papers were strewn every which way.
The room appeared to be turned upside-down;
Nothing was in its place.
Laying on the bed was one of my younger cousins
With his tear-stained face,
He looked at me and started crying once more.
I tried comforting him and calmly
Said his parents wouldn’t have
Forgotten him on purpose.
That type of thing doesn’t happen
In our family.
Or so I thought.
He gripped my hand tighter than a woman in labor
And begged me not to leave.
I couldn’t say not to those pitiful blue eyes
So together we went to see mom.
After a lot of convincing and
A few extra cookies
We got him to watch TV.
I went back upstairs to tackle the cars
Thinking, “Gee, can’t wait until next Christmas
When I get assigned kitchen clean-up.”
And to make things a bit more interesting, here’s the description I included about the application process in my autobiography for Mr. Kremin.
In the fall, I learned about Governor’s School and a workshop that was to be held (at the local community college). I decided to go to the workshop to see what the program was all about. I loved it! George Singleton, the teacher in charge of creative writing, was great. He had an awesome sense of humor and was extremely open and friendly. I was very impressed with the idea of improving my writing that as soon as I got home I quickly began filling out the forms needed to apply.
One week before my interview, I got a package in the mail from 21st Century. I had submitted several of my poems last Spring and this was the first time I had heard from them. I tore that envelope open faster than you can say hello. I do not think I even finished reading the letter before I started leafing through the journal. I had gotten published! 21st Century was a nationwide published magazine and I had gotten in. I was jumping up and down with so much joy. The next few days I was floating on air and also nervous beyond belief because of my interview.
The following Saturday I was at Columbia College for my interview. I had never done an interview of any kind before and my stomach felt like it was prepared for take-off. When it was my turn, I followed the lady into a small classroom where I was greeted by two men. I had no idea that three people would be interviewing me. With a deep breathe and friendly smiles by them along wit some encouraging words on their part, the interview began. It went great! I even wanted to continue talking, but my time was up. It was so surreal to imagine that I, the really shy girl, wanted to continue a conversation with some people I had just met. I guess maybe I was growing up after all.
It was a month after our basketball team had ranked fourth in our region and made it to the first round of state finals before I got my results about Governor’s School. The day I received it was the day I talked to my neighbor about how the letter should be arriving soon. My mom greeted me at the door with a huge smile on her face. She had been pestering me lately, constantly asking if she could open the letter as soon as it arrived instead of letting me do the honors. No matter what happened, I was going to be the one to open the letter. Thankfully she went along with my wishes and let me open it. It got it! That was the best day of my life. It seemed like my future career was that closer to possibly becoming reality. I could not wait until the day came when I would start that adventure.