[Sunrise over Kelowna - photo by my son, Jon Merk]
Ella's prompt at Real Toads is to write about gifts, or to write about the first poem that really meant something to you, after which your love affair with poetry began.
I began falling in love with words when I was very young. I have been carrying home an armload of books from the library weekly since I was five - that is a lot of books. I lost myself in them, and still do. I always have a book on the go, and twenty more stacked waiting by my bedside.
The first poem that began my writing journey was one I wrote myself. I dont know why or what sparked it, but I wrote it, and the floodgates were opened. A torrent of poems flowed through me, for the rest of my life. Many composed in my teens were written in language that seemed to come through me from somewhere else, someone older, with some understanding of things my teenage brain certainly wasnt yet capable of comprehending.
I wote feverishly all through high school. The teachers were very good. They encouraged me and turned a blind eye to my feverish scribbling, which I could not help - when a poem was coming, nothing else mattered. I had to write it.
I hadnt read much poetry until then, but was drawn to the classic novels: Wuthering Heights (Heathcliff!), especially. I loved all of the Brontes, books full of moors and turbulence and suppressed longing.
During high school I was finally exposed to poetry and loved so many of the poets: Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, e.e. cummings.
I remember writing these lines in class, then sitting and staring at them, wondering where they had come from and what they meant. It was 1960. My dad had died that summer before high school started, and I was just barely fourteen.
Each acquaintance on the road to Never
whispers through the soul
and leaves a soft thought to remember
when tomorrow dawns cold.
It seems each person that I meet
on this long journey to the end of things
is someone I can love
and I must tell him of my love
for if my heart stopped beating
e'er one more sky was streaked with dawn,
how would my many loves live on,
uncertain of this extra dream of life
only my heart, in love, can dwell upon?