I received an email recently from the (living) poet I most admire in all the world. (He's right up there with some of my favourite dead ones too.) He’d come across some of my writing online, including a mention of his first book, and wrote to thank me for the mention.
Given that poetry is my greatest, my lifelong passion, this was a very big deal. I opened my mouth and a shriek came out – which startled Andrew, reading the paper in the next room. I tottered in there dazedly to explain, but no words emerged except, “Oh! Oh! Oh!” in a series of shrieks that went on for about ten minutes. We’ve all read of “shrieking for joy”; I think this is the first time in my life I’ve actually experienced it. I doubt if I’d have been more thrilled had Johnny Depp walked in the door – an event which seems only a little more unlikely. “It’s as if God spoke to me,” I told Andrew.
Yes of course I wrote back. This man’s work has meant much to me over the years, in many ways. Poetry – good poetry – is one of my greatest joys. More, it sustains and uplifts my spirit in all circumstances. This particular poet is not the only one who has done that for me, but he’s one of those I return to often, always finding new depths. I was glad of the opportunity to tell him so.
Like all writers he was grateful for the feedback, and wrote again to say so. He also expressed interest in some of the topics both Andrew and I blog about, and I’ll be replying to him about that. It seems I have a new friendship beginning.
As I could guess from the poems, he turns out to be a nice bloke, not conceited, not being the “great poet” – though I think he is – but just human like the rest of us.
I told the story today to an old friend I was catching up with. “He’s been my hero,” I said, explaining what the experience meant to me. My friend is a witch and a feminist; it reminded her of meeting her own hero, the writer Starhawk, and seeing that this wonderful woman was also as human as everyone else. It showed her, she said, that she can be her own hero. I sit with that thought.
My new friend isn’t, of course, God – or only in the sense that each of us is. Still (I told you to watch this space) this is yet another experience that makes me feel astonishingly blessed.