Gary James

During the course of a week, I read so many lovely letters and responses to our public radio program. Oftentimes people extend a simple "thank you" or a humble "this show caught me at the perfect time." But, we also receive more devoted notes from folks who offer a piece of themselves.

Gary James, a bartender who was born and raised in Jamaica, sent us this lovely essay in response to our interview with poet Christian Wiman:

"I was on the job today getting upset at all that has to be done and trying to find a good station on the radio. Being frustrated with the numerous commercials, I switched to NPR radio where I heard the subject of poetry being discussed.

It got my immediate attention, because I have missed poetry in more ways than I care to admit. I have tried a lot of other ways to generate my inner thoughts in order to inspire myself but, in most cases, I failed miserably. Staying away from poetry was something I did deliberately because I got frustrated with the competitive nature that the genre seems to take on when too many poets are gathered in one room.

But something hit me today here on the job. I guess you could say that my creative juices were flowing. A title came to my mind which read, "Doing What You Love and Loving What You Do."

The title seems to sum up how I was feeling and it led me to think back on my days of intense writing. I had to ask myself a question, "Do you love writing?" Of course the answer was a resounding yes!

Then the next obvious questions would be, "What is it about writing that I love so much?" I found the answer to not be as obvious as I thought it would be. Poetry has always been my escape.

It came very natural for me and there are those who say when it comes that easy it is not you who manifests the talent but rather it is a gift that is given to you. I have heard stories where people said that they were many gifted people who did not take advantage of their gift and end up losing it. I guess that statement was always in the back of my mind, which I believe held me back somewhat.

Sometimes it takes being away from something to truly appreciate its value, and I am finding this truth to be very pronounced at this point in my life.

As I have stated above that my reason for not getting deeper into poetry was because of the competition. Now that I think about it, that statement may not be entirely true. I have to bear some of the blame. Every artist wants to be recognized for his work, and I am no different. But in trying to please everyone else, I have gone away from the very thing that I truly love.

I miss what this art form meant to me, how the words would magically appear in my head, how I would force myself to come up with the next rhyme, not wanting to move onto the next sentence until the present line matches the previous.

I blame myself for allowing my mind to be distracted from what was important and what gave me the most joy. Writing gives me the power to open closets that I have no business opening. It allows me to tell the stories that were not meant to be heard, and it provides me the ability to do this in a creative way. For that, I am very grateful.

With all this in mind, I have answered my own question, which is to get back to what I love, because that is where true happiness lives."

This note makes it all worth the doing.

Share Your Reflection




I don't have the "gift" you speak of,Gary, put I do have a passion and gift in facilitating the writing of others. I did this for years as a special education teacher and in retirement I have led poetry workshops for many different groups. I enjoy helping people find their voice and express it. With all the needs of the world, i often question my choice of contribution. Is it "enough"? Your essay is a wonderful example of the power of doing what you love and following your heart. Thank you!

Yes and YES. I have to separate my love of writing out from all the rest of the world all the time and take it up freely for the pure JOY of the experience. When i travel I am astounded how many "other worlds" are out there... other people... other people who are writers and in the instance that i start feeling small and insignificant in comparison, i slam the door shut on those thoughts like a book catching a surprised fly and return to the simple JOY of the gift and exercising it! All creation is experiential first.

I so resonate with this feeling of reconnecting with the artist inside you. And this is a wonderful line: "Writing gives me the power to open closets that I have no business opening" -- though, why don't you have any business opening them?? Open every door! Best of luck to this fellow poet.

Gary James, thanks for using your gift with words to write this essay. I think you would like the On Being interview with the (prematurely deceased) poet John O'Donahue. Check out the podcast if you have a chance ... especially the unedited version.

Writing gives me the power to open closets that I have no business opening. It allows me to tell the stories that were not meant to be heard, and it provides me the ability to do this in a creative way. For that, I am very grateful.
This is true for every artist, and so well put. Thank you for this reminder.

Excellent. I understand what he is saying. It is such an escape and joy for me as well.