Thank You Miss Jane

An Essay By Taylor // 6/10/2007

I started writing poetry during my English class last year. It was actually the very first English class for me, since my mom had never really been strong in that area. I was in the tenth grade, and studying mathematics at the eleventh grade, but because of my weak background in grammar, my mom had enrolled me in a ninth grade class. Even so, I was nervous that first day.

I hadn't written so much as a couplet before that class. I'd written a few song lyrics when I was eight or nine, but nothing really good, nothing brilliant. The very first day of class, I think it was actually September 11th, because I remember being upset that we had class on 9/11, my teacher (I'll call her Miss Jane) assigned every student to write an acrostic poem. "I want each of you to write a twenty-six line poem, with the first line starting with the letter A, the second with B, the third with C, and so on," she's said, and I'd gotten excited. Really excited. Remember, I'd never written a poem before. This was new for me.

I worked on that acrostic as hard as I could that week. Truth be told, I think I kind of skimped on my chemistry homework in order to work on it. When I got to the letter X, I had to get kind of imaginative. I used the word "excellent" for that line, since it started with the same sound as the letter X, even if it didn't start with it. I edited it and edited it, and finally turned it in. Then I waited.

Before we started class the very next week, Miss Jane asked if anyone wanted to share their acrostic with the class. A few students volunteered and read theirs aloud, but I wasn't sure about that. Even talking to people over the Internet, people I'd never seen and never would see, frightened me, and the idea of reading my very first words to the entire class was too much. Instead, I asked Miss Jane if I could e-mail the poem to her. She said that would be fine, and so I did.

She wrote back a little over an hour later. Her encouragement, her support, and her belief in me have stayed with me to this day. They haunt me. She wrote, "Taylor, your poem is the stuff that makes English teachers cry. Thank you for putting your heart into your work and rising to the challenge. . . I hope you will treasure it for a life-time . . ." And indeed I will. Thanks Miss Jane. You don't know how much those words meant to me.

Rereading the poem I wrote, which I titled "In The Ways of Our Lord," I realize that the poem lacks depth and originality. As the assignment had instructed, I based it off of Psalms 119, itself an acrostic. I was thinking someone else's thoughts, writing someone else's words, but still, it was a first, wasn't it?

I've written over a hundred poems since that first one, back in September of 2005. I wonder how many I would have had the courage to write if Miss Jane had written back, saying, "Your poem lacks depth and originality. You based it off of Psalms 119. You were thinking someone else's thoughts, writing someone else's words. It wasn't good at all. Just give up on writing. You're no good." She would have been right in what she said. My poem wasn't good at all, and neither was I at writing.

For a moment, though, I could hope. I could dream. It felt exhilarating for someone to believe in me, to say that what I'd done was beautiful and "expertly crafted." I was no Shakespeare, no Sandburg, but I was a poet in my own right, with one poem to my name, and more on the way.


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