Yesterday my writing took me to Harding University. I met with an Intro to Poetry class in the morning, visited with students and faculty over pizza, and read in Cone Chapel in the late afternoon. This marks my third visit to Harding, and it was as beautiful as ever, maybe even more so, not only because I was teaching and reading in azaleas and dogwoods, but I was honored to be introduced by Terry Engel as a friend of its English Department.
Between events, I sat out on campus, read a little, and watched the world go by. A student who couldn’t come to my reading took the time to find and talk with me.
Oftentimes as I prepare for events like these, I think of what I want to say, but in this visit, I realized I was thinking more of what Harding has been saying to me. The students were fun, funny, curious, and kind. Nick Boone has always had a knack of encouraging me to take myself seriously as a writer at the exact moments I doubted my work. So yesterday was the first time I felt comfortable to read from each of my three books, Fear Nothing of the Future or the Past, with a title that speaks for itself; Underwater Panther, with its look at the past we’ve inherited; and Ore Horizon, with its question, when our environment is being damaged, both our natural world and how we deal with each other as people, what do we do?
All this is colored with my deepening sense of mourning, as the first anniversary of my father’s passing draws near. But something my husband said to me weeks ago has stuck in my mind: some people approach the world from a foundation of fear. They cling to the past because they feel frightened. But some people approach the world from a place of hope. They feel scared, too, but they look to the past to help create new ways to move forward to something better. Poetry is part of such hope, as are the people and places who celebrate it.
With thanks to Harding for a good day.