I mentioned in the “How I Discovered Poetry” series introduction that the series would begin with Marilyn Nelson’s “How I Discovered Poetry” and end with comments from Marilyn. I’m keeping to my promise.
Let me set this up: Someone sent Marilyn a message inquiring about “How I Discovered Poetry.” This person asked a couple of questions that boiled down to asking about the nature of the experience and an item referenced in Marilyn’s poem. Marilyn has graciously sent me her reply to the inquirer. I share it with you:
March 20 at 6:26pm
Dear Joyce – The event happened in about 1958, in a small town near a military base in Oklahoma. I was one of 2 black students in the school, and I was very smart. This was when the school integration movement was going on, fire hoses, police dogs, white adults yelling obscenities at black children in Little Rock, etc. Teacher was a middle-aged racist Okie; poem was selected purposely to humiliate me. I don’t know what the poem was, but I think it was from what we know as “the plantation school” of literature written in late 19th century — like “Birth of a Nation.” Her husband was my math teacher; no matter how well I did, he always gave me D’s. I was in 7th grade.
Thank you for reading the “How I Discovered Poetry” series. By reading, you have helped me honor National Poetry Month. I say we do this series again in 2011!