My thanks to Joy Acey for introducing members of this fall’s poetry workshop to a fun way to introduce themselves to others in the group. I think Joy borrowed the basic idea from somewhere else and adapted it as a way to bring the group together in advance of the event itself. We’ve been asked to tell about ourselves in twelve stanzas, be they prose, free verse, or a combination.
Here’s mine as an example. I’m thinking that many of you might like to contribute your own “Life in 12 Points” poem, including those who have already exchanged them among the workshop family.
A Life in 12 Parts
David L. Harrison
Age four: I learn and recite Gettysburg Address. Months later we move to Arizona. Under our new house I fill a jar with centipedes and scorpions. My mother is not happy. I hide my toy snake in the yard and convince her it’s real. Long story. It’s a wonder I escape with my life.
I write my first poem. It’s inspired by the smell of fish frying in the kitchen while I’m banished to wait in the living room. I begin collecting things: minerals, stamps, pop bottle caps, marbles . . .
We move back home to Missouri. My first trombone at 10, lessons at 11. More collections: insects, snake skins, skulls, bird wings, arrowheads, seashells. I find a bear skull in a cave. A friend gives me a human skull with the skull cap sawed off. I add brain coral, artificial eyes, ball cap . . . A little girl visitor throws up. Not everyone loves my collections.
Summer jobs for money and brawn — mowing yards, pouring concrete, unloading cement and bricks from box cars, jack hammering through paved streets for a utilities crew, stacking concrete blocks. He-man? Heck yeah. Growl! I work in a pet shop feeding mice to cobras and cleaning the baboon’s cage; take a course in taxidermy so I can stuff the things that die at the pet shop.
First date with my future wife. I take her to watch me bowl. What? Fancy myself a good bowler; pitch softball and baseball, letter in high school, pitch legion ball. I take a writing class at Drury, learn that maybe I have a destiny. Besides, that is, my marriage, May 23, 1959 to Sandy Sue Kennon.
Degrees in science from Drury and Emory. In Atlanta, I take my pregnant wife snake hunting, catch a copperhead for our landlord’s little boy. I can’t help it. I’m a romantic.
First profession – scientist; second – editor; third – business owner. I sell my first story, 1962. Add writer as the fourth.
Our most creative and loving collaborations: Robin, 1960; Jeff, 1964.
Author at last; first book published in 1969: Boy With a Drum. Shall I quit my day job to write full time? Really? With a net writing income of $350? Really? My sweet wife says she’ll back me. I say no and feel right about it.
Begin volunteer career with service on school board, community college, public television, others. Settle into a life of promoting literacy.
An elementary school named for me! Me! Really? Yes! My 89th book comes out. Ten more in the chute.
Me: a happy, lucky, blessed man. I’m in love with life.