From the Mad Mind
of Anthony Watkins
As an elder poet, who believes we are all born creative, I have tasked myself with encouraging everyone to get in touch with their inner poet. In fact, I am in the early stages of creating a rural library tour/workshop to help reach out to isolated individuals.
As a child, going up in rural Alabama, I did not know anyone else who wrote poetry. I realize today, that I was surrounded by other isolated poets. I wish I had known I wasn’t alone. I was over 30 years old before I found a community of poets. My life and my poetry blossomed from that point on.
My hope is that by reaching out to rural libraries and the nearby schools, I will find the one, two, or even three persons in each community who need to know they can write, their writing is valid, and that they are part of a global network of poets. If I can enable a few dozen people, from kids to seniors, to find their voice, to be heard, to be acknowledged, I will feel like my life purpose has been served.
On the other hand, as publisher of Better Than Starbucks, it is my job, along with the other editors, to cull and select the poems we feel best fit within our publication. This act of exclusion is painful, but necessary.
The internal conflict between the Encourager, the Includer, and this role as Excluder, the sifter through the hundreds of poems and pieces of short fiction to find a few that we believe you the reader will enjoy leads me to some strange places. As publisher, my first responsibility is to the reader, then secondly to our contributors, but nobody should be published out of some sort of sympathy, so the exclusion must be done. We also don’t have space for 300 poems per issue.
When we can, we sometimes work with a poet who “shows promise” but mostly we have to accept or reject. My point is, even if your work is rejected, or even if you never get up the courage to submit to us or anywhere, know that the very act of putting words to paper is valid.
A few years ago, I met a painter and while admiring his work I said, “I used to paint, but gave it up when I realized I was never going to be the greatest painter in the world.”
He replied, “You don’t need to be the greatest, you just need to have something to say with paint.”
I took him up on that and have since enjoyed painting, even though I doubt anyone will ever offer to buy one of my works. My point is that if you write a poem or a scrap of a story or anything, it may not have commercial value, it may not even be accepted by a non-paying literary journal, but the fact you wrote it gives it validity. It is not up to me, an English teacher, or your spouse, or your parent, or anyone else, to tell you that you are not a writer. Be creative, for your own sake, share it if you are brave enough and maybe someone, like us, will publish it, but if we don’t, as long as you find satisfaction in writing it, keep writing. In fact, if no one seems interested, create your own free webpage and post it there. Be free, be creative, and NEVER let someone else tell you whether your work has any value or not. It does.