it is good to hear the tale of someone who has met success by being inspired and following through. -David Adamshick
The fluorescent lights always buzzed. Sometimes, after being there for a long time, I wore them like a heavy coat I couldn’t wait to take off at home.
The plastic seat with the writing surface attached said “I am cold and uncomfortable, but come, sit down.” Time to get what we are requiring you to do to receive that piece of paper. The one that you want. The one everyone says you should get.
And in the seat behind the plastic seat I go to sit in is a tall slender sandy-brown haired brown-eyed man. After reading his writing and speaking with him, what I mainly notice is his enormous tranquility or solitude, I cannot tell which, that overwhelms the buzzing electric lights for a moment. And then my back faces him. But I have come to know enough about him, he writes well. We were editing partners.
I both liked and abhorred writing classes. I liked them because they gave me a place to do what I like to do, write. I hated them because I wasn’t sure that there were things that I needed to learn about writing, more like things I needed to unlearn. I needed more a teacher to shout over the lines in my head that said what things I should spend my time doing, and what things were not productive.
The things that I should spend my time doing were things that made money. The things I should not spend time doing were things that could not guarantee an income. And my whole life was drawn on those lines. Can I be a naturopathic doctor? Can I be an anthropologist? Can I be a journalist? Who will be in my corner?
They aren’t bad lines, they kept me from relying on a someone else to support me. Which were very real concerns for some in my family.
I almost decided that work and joy were mutually exclusive until meeting Jeff, my husband, for whom they are the same. Creative efforts that please me so much I still struggle with because there is a voice in my head that says loudly “You aren’t good enough at this,” only now, I know that there is a real reason why I still am so compelled toward being creative, whether it is in cooking or photography or writing. It lets me be a whole person. It doesn’t matter as much whether it is perfect, or even good, there is a freedom in just creating for nothing more than joy.
Back in the writing class, I sit and sometimes my tension or attitude is so strong I wonder if the teacher can perceive it. But for just a time I write, allowed to do what makes me happy and is easy to me, even if it won’t earn me one cent. Or an A. Even though I want the A.
Turning around, it is time for peer editing. The tall slender tranquility behind me doesn’t waste his words. His thoughts don’t run around like a hummingbird stopping here, darting and then…
Tall tranquil and I have enough conversation I suppose to get to know each other well enough to spend time out of class. But we don’t match up somehow. I wished we did, but we don’t.
Years years later, I find I only remember such random things. He had red socks. I remember wishing I could reach his planet, but also being tremendously preoccupied on my own planet. Too many credits, too many jobs and trying to pay rent in 25 dollar installments until a real check came in, walking out a broken relationship at a time of too much work.
But this week, again, in my own world with 2 little girls I learn my tall, slender friend with the sandy-brown hair and the brown eyes has received prizes. For his writing. I am so happy for him I am surprised by my own distraction.
it is good to hear the tale of someone who has met success by being inspired and following through.
Carl Adamshick, whom I met in a Portland State University required writing class, won the Walt Whitman prize for a book of his poetry. I haven’t spoken to him in maybe 20 years, but if I saw him, it would be hard for me to not smile for his success, because he has done the thing, that thing, that I was told was not possible. I am so glad he did.
Often it feels like a funeral.
I half expect to see flowers
under the paintings.
I never much believed in the muse,
never much believed my belief
was carried too far out into the world.
This is what is left behind.
Doesn’t everything here speak
to relations, hasn’t everything
always spoken to relations,
to the smallest gesture?
I walk through galleries,
see paintings of the dead.
Let the muse make
whatever needs to be made,
let the muse tend the fire.
Your whole body is curled like an ear
I want to talk into all evening.
Your hand, a ring of articulated keys.
I want that moment
when we climb down the bright
ladder of ecstasy, when our breath
when everything is alive,
present in the moment
with nothing to wait for,
nothing to worry over,
only the need
to rise into the beauty that is.
— Carl Adamshick, Portland
Carl Adamshick won the Walt Whitman prize for poetry in 2010. He also won the Stafford/Hall Oregon Book award for 2012. I am glad for his talent and courage, and I am glad that our lives bumped at one point. His poem was taken without permission, but if you like it, buy his book “Curses and Wishes” on Amazon.