When I was 17, fresh out of the loving arms of the Oak trees, I wanted to be a writer. Not just any kind of writer, but a Poet. Writing poems just seemed so meaningful, so connected, so mysterieux… I was either going to apply to the UVic writing program or become a Russian spy (cover: Katya Irina Kalinka the fiercely passionate Olympic ice dancer). Both seemed completely do-able at the time. I had to make up my mind. I quickly constructed a pros and cons list to decide. In the end, Con: “I am not Russian”, tipped the scales in the direction of a writing career. But to keep the dreams alive, a compromise was made: Major in writing, minor in Slavonic Studies, Figure Skating, and Foreign Espionage. University credits towards graduation: 0.0.
In order to apply to the competitive writing program, I had to submit 25 of my most heart-felt poems. Immediately, I thumbed through the pages of my well-loved journal: An embroidery covered book I bought from Chinatown for $2, embellished with glued-in collages of pressed foliage and whimsical travel photos underscored with William Blake quotes: “To see a grain of sand…”
To cut a long story in half, I was accepted into the program. Heidi Klum would say, “Lisa’s poems were IN and obtaining Russian citizenship was OUT”. And so it began…
Writing 100. First term: Poetry. Perfect. Expected grade: A+ Well, I was the best poet in my entire high school English class (and it was Honours), so… yeah… I was basically a poetic prodigy. I wrote my first poem about breaking-up with my boyfriend. Tragic. My pain and tears became words and flowed onto the page. My first poetry assignment was a bedazzlement of structure, rhyme, and metaphors about dying flowers and eagles (and they’re pretty much extinct so… yeah… painful). First grade received: C -. What? In all my life I had never received such a crappy grade ever. Well, to be honest I wasn’t so hot at Maths or Potions. 10 points from Gryffindor.
The “receiving of the crappy grades” continued throughout the term. I just couldn’t get a grip on what my professor wanted. What was I to do? I was failing miserably and I had to get an A+ on the mid-term poem or I would be dishonourably discharged from the writing club. The mid-term poem was the last and only link to discovering where the kidnapping terrorists were hiding Jack Bauer and some sort of large nuclear device. Wait. I digress momentarily.
Back to Poetry 101. The day before mid-terms my teacher singled out “her favourite young writer” to come before the class and present his life-altering poem “Jesus is me”. Set to a subtle pulsing strum of an out of tune guitar, the poem went something like this:
lost in me
lost in Jesus
I am He.
Blink. Nod. Yes. It all snapped into focus. That A+ was in my grasp now. So here, for the first time ever, I present my first and only A+ poetry assignment (for sadly, this was to be the last poetry class I ever took):
disconnected wooden shelves
filled with red jams
blackberry, raspberry, strawberry
dated and stacked
they’re half coloured in
like the story of you and i.
when i was little i had an easy bake oven.
tiny round cakes cooked with a lightbulb.
crispy on the outside, soggy in the middle
just like you.
it’s kind of salt.tea
bitter even. how u
realize after the fact.
but here i stay – (with a) silver spoon
beneath the chandelier
step off balance.tw-is-ter.
twisting. sailing the 7 seas.
wd u like a cup of tea?
— this entry is dedicated to Jessie and her love of broken, stream-of-consciousness poems written on thick handmade paper crafted from bark, flowers, and bits of carrot. Lovely.