Six years later . . .

Hi everyone,

Some of you may remember Rachel Heinrichs. Not long after I started Word of the Month Poetry Challenge, she began posting her poems. At about the same time another girl, Taylor McGowan, began to post hers. They were ten years old and loved to write. One month we held a vote for Young Poet of the Month and the girls drew votes from seven countries. At that time it was the most visits I’d ever had to my blog.
Ryan Heinrichs
Six years later. I haven’t heard from Taylor for a long time but Rachel and I have kept in touch. Her mother Michele drove her to New Jersey so we could meet when I was speaking there and also brought her to one of my poetry workshops at Honesdale for lunch.

Today Rachel has found her core as Ryan. I call him Agent R and we both acknowledge the distinction. Ryan is sixteen now (can this be??), making good grades, taking online courses, and looking at colleges that can offer a dual major in education and Spanish. And Ryan still writes! He just shared this poem with me and I asked permission to share it with you. Ryan’s teachers are impressed and so am I.

I admire Michele Heinrichs for always being there for both of her daughters. And I love Rachel, now Ryan for sharing his journey with me.

This poem was a class project. Ryan is going through a poetry unit in English class. “I had to read a poem, and then use the first two lines of it to write my own poem. The requirements were to use those two lines to begin and end my poem. Here’s what I came up with.”

Sadness Is Not A Disease
by Ryan Heinrichs

When I get to be a composer
I’m gonna write me some music about
How sadness is not a disease
It is not something you can say,
“I have sadness,”
Because people will shake their head
And simply turn away.

When I get to be a composer
I’m gonna write me some stories about
The children who tried to tell
But got a pat on the shoulder
And the sentence,
“It’s a part of life.”
What a strong verbal knife.

When I get to be a composer,
I’m gonna write me some questions about
Why it’s okay for someone
To be depressed
Or anxious
Or angry
Without reason
But if someone’s sad without reason
It’s treason

Against the people
With a “real” diagnosis?

When I get to be a composer,
I’m gonna tell me some people about
What the real disease is
Because it isn’t depression
Or anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s
Nor schizophrenia.
The real disease here
Is how people without a label are treated
Almost as if to say,
“Your feelings are invalid
Until a doctor rubberstamps your forehead.”
And that is the only disease here.
It is ignorance.

So when I get to be a composer,
I’m gonna write me some music about
How sadness isn’t a disease
It may destroy lives
And friendships
And hopes and dreams
But not with me,
No, not with me.
Because I have overcome
What it really is.

Sadness is an everlasting, unavoidable,
Don’t-want-to-cry-but-have-to
Emotion.

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Visitor number 100,000 is . . .

Hi everyone,

Sunday morning I kept the blog stats on as I watched the visits climb toward the 100,000 mark. Five visits short of the goal, all became still. No action. I read the paper and ate breakfast sitting here staring at the screen.

Finally, at 10:42, there came flurry of activity and number 100,000 came from our young friend and poet, Taylor McGowan from Galena, Ohio. I was delighted by the way it turned out. I’ll mail Taylor a signed copy of the book she chose, MAMMOTH BONES AND BROKEN STONES.

Many of you will remember when Taylor and another gifted young poet, Rachel Heinrichs of Westchester, Pennsylvania, became locked in a wild runoff for Young Poet of the Month back in May, 2010. On that occasion we had voters from several countries involved who helped run the total votes on April 29, 2010 up to 1830, the largest single tally in the history of my blog.

By coincidence, I also heard from Rachel this week, telling me that school is off to a good start and that she is as busy as ever. I know that so many of you agree that it is a pleasure to watch these girls and our other young poets grow and learn more about the world and themselves.

David