Yesterday, I learned that my first book of poems, called A Plum Tree in Leatherstocking Country, had been accepted for publication by a small press in Chicago, and will be coming out in early 2012. I’ve spent the past two days on that proverbial roller coaster of emotion. This is something I’ve alternately dreamed of, expected, never expected, dared to hope for, despaired for desire of, been thrilled by, been terrified by, and many shades in between that I’m unaware of or don’t understand.
What I do know is this: when I was nineteen years old, a sophomore at Roberts Wesleyan College, I took a literature course with one William Judson Decker. At one point in that class, I thought to myself, “I must find a way to spend the rest of my life in this room.” I meant that I felt at home in a place where art and faith intersected, informed each other, respected the truth and dignity and complexity of the lives of all persons without reducing any to platitudes, increased me and those around me. Mystery was honored and excellence praised in that classroom.
I’ve been working ever since for two things: to become a college English professor and facilitate that great ongoing conversation for students who need it as badly I did (and do); and to publish my own writing, in which I could enter that great ongoing conversation.
I have a lot of work to do to honor and grow in both of these callings.
But here I am. After years on the outside, I never seriously thought I’d make it into this place, even just into the lobby, where I’m standing right now with a fool’s grin. Oh, I’ll get up in the morning and shut my mouth and get back to work. But for a moment I’m going to look around, give thanks, and celebrate.