There has been quite a discussion at Blue Rose Girls about talent and hard work and persistence being three elements required for success (you have to be GOOD)—and the percentage one needs of each. I don’t know if the percentage of each of those elements can be exactly determined. People are so different—as are their abilities and talents and passions.
I began writing when I was about ten years old. I delighted in writing takeoffs of television shows and other humorous things. I wrote skits for shows and song parodies and light verse when I was in high school. BUT I had a difficult time doing required writing assignments for teachers in elementary, high school, and college. Completing some of those papers was excruciating for me.
I don’t think I have an innate writing talent the way many writers do. I really have to work at my craft. I DO have a passion for poetry—so I read it all the time. I read all kinds of poems—poems by dozens of different adult and children’s poets. I read books about writing poetry. I may work on twenty or thirty or more drafts of most of my poems. I rarely think I’m finished with a piece. I always think I may be able to tweak it a little more and make it better.
I had great poetry teachers—David McCord, Karla Kuskin, Myra Cohn Livingston, Lilian Moore, Aileen Fisher, Mary Ann Hoberman, Valerie Worth, Arnold Adoff, Janet Wong, J. Patrick Lewis, John Ciardi, Langston Hughes, Lucille Clifton, X. J.Kennedy, Barbara Juster Esbensen, Joyce Sidman, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Marilyn Singer, Douglas Florian, Eve Merriam, Tony Johnston, Alice Schertle, Bobbi Katz, Patricia Hubbell. (I know I’m leaving some poets out here.) I learned to write poetry by reading poetry—and by rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. I learned to write by teaching my elementary students how to write. I spent many hours in the classroom working with each child individually—helping them to find their own unique voices. Doing that helped me to be a better critic of my own writing.
I read Meghan’s post yesterday, DNA tests for talent. I find things like that scary. Trying to genetically determine where children’s talents lie at an early age so the children can be trained/educated in certain fields and have their path in life laid out for them. Human beings are too complicated. An approach like that—too simplistic.
I showed little writing talent when I was young--but I had some kind of driving force in me that led me to write creatively...for myself. It wasn't until I was in my late twenties that I began writing children's poetry. Before that time--I had dreams of being a comedy writer. It was through teaching elementary school that I became hooked on reading and writing kids' poetry.
For this Poetry Friday, I thought I’d post a poem by Eve Merriam that I used to share with parents at our September Open House when I was teaching elementary school. It’s about valuing the individual, which became the core of my educational philosophy.
by Eve Merriam
In the heel of my thumb
are whorls, whirls, wheels
in a unique design:
What a treasure to own!
My own flesh, my own feelings.
No other, however grand or base,
can ever contain the same.
My universe key,
I am myself,
of all my atom parts I am the sum.
And out of my blood and brain
I make my own interior weather,
my own sun and rain.
Imprint my mark upon the world,
whatever I shall become.
At Wild Rose Reader, I have a review of My Cat Is in Love with the Goldfish, a new anthology of light verse for children that was published in the UK this month. The book includes Jack and June, a poem I wrote and posted with the review.
Irene has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Live. Love. Explore!