As I mentioned previously, I received my chapbooks this past weekend, and I’m really pleased with them. I’ve been receiving numerous texts and emails from friends and family who received their copies as well, and I’ve been really flattered by the positive response.
This morning I received an email from the mother of a boy who went to Jacob’s day care last year. Her son and Jacob were in the same class, and though we chatted briefly on the few occasions we met at the school, we never talked much beyond standard classroom fare. I had her email address from a party RSVP, though, and when I was creating the distribution list for advertising my chapbook, something told me I should include her. I was initially really nervous about it: the poems in the chapbook are very personal, and often are difficult for me to talk about “in real life.” Only a handful are based in fiction, and I’ve had people ask me about them as if they really happened to me or someone I know, so it’s clear that the poems are convincing.
But her email this morning calmed any fears I might have had:
I received my copy of Ripe Again over the weekend and finally had a chance to read it last night. I am so glad you included me in your distribution list so I could get the chance to read your work. I was really blown away. Your poems are heartfelt, honest and haunting and I loved every one. I have always been a writer, but I did chicken out and put it aside for a while. You may have inspired me to pick it up again. I forgot how beautiful and freeing writing with honesty and fearlessness can be. Anyway, I just wanted to you to know that I was touched and I think your work is wonderful. Thanks again!
That is one of the biggest compliments a writer can receive, in my opinion. I think about the people who have inspired me to write, and to write better: BJ Ward, Stephen Dunn, Tony Hoagland, Marie Howe, Lucille Clifton. These are people I really respect and admire, and at least two of the five know how much their work has affected me. So it means a lot to me that someone feels inspired to write because of reading what I wrote.
It’s a hard line to walk: I’ve been working on poems that are very different from what appears in this chapbook, and I think I’ve really moved forward in terms of skill. I was starting to feel disconnected from the poems that appear in Ripe Again. But this email really brings it home: I have done what I always wanted to do. I have affected someone else enough with my writing that they want to write themselves.
That is incredibly gratifying, empowering and humbling at the same time.