How I Discovered Poetry
It was like soul-kissing, the way the words
filled my mouth as Mrs. Purdy read from her desk.
All the other kids zoned an hour ahead to 3:15,
but Mrs. Purdy and I wandered lonely as clouds borne
by a breeze off Mount Parnassus. She must have seen
the darkest eyes in the room brim: The next day
she gave me a poem she’d chosen especially for me
to read to the all except for me white class.
She smiled when she told me to read it, smiled harder,
said oh yes I could. She smiled harder and harder
until I stood and opened my mouth to banjo playing
darkies, pickaninnies, disses and dats. When I finished
my classmates stared at the floor. We walked silent
to the buses, awed by the power of words.
~ Marilyn Nelson
from The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems, Louisiana State University Press
I bought The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems in 2006 before attending the 2nd Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival because I wanted to become better acquanted with Marilyn's work before participating in a workshop with her. I find myself visiting the book again and again-- the language is beautiful, each word carefully chosen like precious jewels.
I used the first line from "How I Discovered Poetry" in last month's workshop. The poet who drew the line did a good job using it.