A Poetic Moment
Contributor
One Labor Day weekend, I was browsing through the poetry session in Schwartz Bookstore and found three collections by a Milwaukee, Wis., poet named Marilyn Taylor. After perusing the table of contents and flipping through the pages, I decided to buy all three collections and spent Saturday, Sunday, and Monday studying the poems. I liked her style and voice. All of this was to prepare me for my poetry course, which started on Tuesday. It was my first class in graduate school, and I didn’t know what to expect, not to mention the level of difficulty or challenge. Although I had attended undergraduate classes for two years in English and creative writing, nervousness eclipsed the excitement. On Tuesday morning, I had to take an MRI, which I thought would be over an hour before my 1 p.m. class. That would’ve given me time to drive across town to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, but the MRI took longer. I took the interstate, but it was crowded – as usual. My heart was beating down to my feet by the time I entered Room 426 full of anxiety. The professor was a woman, not Bill Harrell, as was listed in the class schedule. I thought I could sneak into class without any disruption. The professor looked across the room and said, “Are you Joyce Evans-Campbell?” I answered affirmatively and took a seat with thoughts running rampantly, wondering who she was, and how she knew my name, chastising myself for being tardy on the first day. After class I went up to her desk, apologized and gave an explanation for my tardiness, and she said, “That’s fine. I’m Marilyn Taylor; I love your columns in the Journal Sentinel. I read them all the time.” I thanked her, and she proceeded: “I’m substituting for Bill Harrell who died over the summer.” I told her that I loved her poetry, and she asked if I had bought her poems. “All three collections they had.” She complimented me for getting prepared for the class, and we briefly discussed her work. This encounter established an extraordinary first impression, and the two years of study under her went well. I learned so much, but poetry forms that included extended metaphor were new for me. At that time, I didn't know what formal poetry was. That meaningful coincidence opened the door to a deeper relationship and helped me to develop confidence. Note: Marilyn Taylor is Poet Laureate of Milwaukee and an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. This essay was recently published in The Seven Secrets of Synchronicityby Trish and Rob MacGregor, mystery writers in Florida

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Comments
  • Joyce Evans-Campbell

    Thanks, M Kathy. Your thoughts mean a lot to me.

  • M Kathy Brown

    You had my attention through the entire story - thank you! Written very well with so much heart; you do well at "reliving the moment" in your writing... not always easy for a poet.

  • Joyce Evans-Campbell

    Hey Patricia, thanks for the update on Marilyn. I had four classes with her, and she really taught me about poetic forms. I hated them until she simplified the process. Do you know that she's a contributing writer for The Writer, and she writes about what else? Poetry in a more direct way than what I'm used to reading. I'd love to be in Washington, but I don't travel because of walking troubles. Thanks for the update.

  • Patricia Valdata

    Joyce, what a lovely way to get to know Marilyn Taylor and her work! She's one of the finest poets I know, and one of the most generous. How lucky you were to take a class with her. Marilyn has been a big influence on me and my poetry. Thanks to her (and my friend Robin Kemp), I regularly attend the West Chester Poetry Conference each summer (it's in Pennsylvania), and I learn from it every year.

    Marilyn is currently Poet Laureate of Wisconsin and she'll be at the AWP conference in Washington, DC, in February. So will I--hope to see you there!

    Pat

  • Joyce Evans-Campbell

    Thanks, Kelly Jo. She's a lovely person. She also has a recent poetry book out, but it sold out so fast I couldn't get my hands on it. I'll try again soon.