Several months ago I went on a trip down memory lane, posting images of work I did during my college years. Click here if you want to read/reread that post. I’ll wait.
Well, here I go again, and this time a little further back in time. 1976. Spring semester at the community college I was attending. I had joined a literary guild the year before, and every year we published one or two volumes of a journal.
The guild was a very, very nice group of students with a faculty adviser. They welcomed me immediately, were kind and tender with my highly sensitive nature, and were my first introduction to professional criticism. Mrs. Hazel Swartz, the adviser, adopted each one of us. We frequently had meetings at her house, and once she took me to dinner to explain to me why “peeping” wasn’t the best word to use when describing the sun coming up over a mountain.
It was a very small world I lived in. I quickly learned that my next-door neighbor had had the dubious pleasure of teaching Hazel to drive a stick-shift many decades before. I remember he said something about fearing for his life as they sped up and down the hills of Queen Anne Road. Few of the students were from my neck-of-the-woods, so to me they were savvy world travelers, even if they had only come from as far as Long Island. They seemed so much older, wiser, and sophisticated than me. I had a crush on one, a poet who seemed to genuinely like my writing. But, of course, I thought he was too good for me so I took up with someone else. That was unfortunate. My first lover could have been a poet. Instead I wound up with a narcissistic, emotionally abusive loser. Ah, the idiocies of youth!
Anyway, for the last almost 40 years, I’ve carried from my home in upstate New York to various apartments in California and finally to my house in Florida two volumes of our journal. The second one is my favorite.
With this one, I was starting to feel like a writer. Recently I sat down and leafed through the contents, cringing at some of my feeble attempts at poetry and fiction writing. But I paused at one bit of prose. It’s not fiction because the people and the circumstance were real. But, in this piece, more than any other, I recognize my voice.
Those very early years, 1975-1976, I could imagine only being a writer. I had no imagination for any other kind of employment. I was naive, ignorant, but I was who I still am.