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.