Here’s something I found when I was going through my Facebook photos prior to being locked out of my account (long story, you can read about it HERE if you’re so inclined. Or not). It’s a JPEG copy of a draft poem I wrote during a creative writing workshop at the Mississippi Valley Writers’ Conference sometime in the mid-1990s.
Debi and I attended the conference for several years after we left the Quad-Cities, and one year we took a poetry workshop from the late Roald Tweet, longtime member of the English faculty at Rock Island’s Augustana College and author of several histories of the Quad-City area. It came at a time when I had just left newspapering and I was trying my hand at other types of writing.
Rock Island isn’t far from Iowa City, and it was my first experience of “workshopping” a piece of creative writing like they do at the Iowa Writers Workshop, discussing it in class, revising it in light of the discussion and discussing (and revising) it again.
It was very much an eye-opener, and very much a part of my transition from writing for a living to teaching the craft. The conferences only lasted three days, but they exposed me to a new, and inviting, world.
This draft is messy, a product of Iowa-style workshopping. I have a vague recollection of doing multiple revisions involving copious use of rubber cement, scissors and Wite-Out correction tape in a student lounge. (Remember: This was in a very early stage of desktop publishing, and fresh from the newspaper business I wasn’t in the habit of doing multiple revisions of anything.) But I’ve always kind of liked the poem.
For one thing, it reminded me of my father. A TVA forester whose work took him in the field a lot, he made that walking stick during the summer of 1950 when he was recuperating from a burst appendix. It was originally a sassafras seedling, but poison ivy had grown around it, creating a spiraling groove where the vine grew. (There’s picture HERE of a similar walking stick, also made by my father. As well as a lovely, and I think perceptive, reminiscence HERE of Dad by a high school student, now a xxxx in Nashville, who did yardwork for him in the 1970s.)
I don’t know how it stacks up as a poem. But writing it came at an important moment in my life, and it calls to mind some of my most cherished memories.
[Published Dec. 18, 2022]