Twice in the last week, I’ve run into one of my favorite and most talented, brilliant professors.
His name is Doctor James Cushing.
Fall Quarter of my sophomore year, I took his incredible course on “Poetry Writing”, which to this day is one of my favorite classes I’ve taken in my time at Cal Poly.
I have always loved writing, in all forms, and had a special interest in poetry, despite the fact I MAJORLY struggled with it in AP Literature in high school.
But I signed up for his course because I knew that I didn’t know as much as I wanted to about poetry. I was excited to take the class and it exceeded my expectations. The course completely revamped my idea of how to approach poetry writing and just poetry in general.
I learned about abstract ways to find inspiration.
I learned that if a poem doesn’t leave you feeling changed afterwards then it probably wasn’t that great.
I learned that “the subject matter is locked inside the students.”
I learned that the author and the narrator are not always the same person.
Dr. Cushing let us know up front, “the purpose of this course is to lead you out of the rooms you’re used to being in.”
Naturally, this bothered me.
As human beings we instinctively avoid embarrassment, vulnerability, and unfamiliar situations. We don’t want to see what’s in the “other room.”
Our regular room is fine! It has soft couches and chocolate chip cookies and steady wifi and all my friends and happy music playing and kind of smells like laundry when it’s fresh out of the dryer! This room is awesome. Why would I want to leave it?
Because we don’t have a choice. Eventually we have to. That’s where we grow.
As much as I loved poetry (or what I thought poetry was at the beginning of the class), the unknown scared me.
And at the time, Dr. Cushing’s idea of being open about my life, emotions, and opinions in my poetry writing didn’t enthuse me. I had a rough freshman year. I kept it mostly private. I wasn’t ready or at all stoked to talk about it.
But on Day 1 Dr. Cushing called me out on something… something that (deep down) I knew to be true about myself, no matter how much I disliked admitting it.
I don’t even recall how the topic came up, but I was participating in an all-class discussion, and front of the whole class he told me that I was “scared of people not liking me” or my writing.
Like, what the hell.
I was embarrassed, livid, amazed, shocked, and almost relieved all at once.
I realized that although I wasn’t fully comfortable being my usual “open book” self at the time, I couldn’t help the fact that I simply was and always have been/would be.
I’m easier to read than a stop sign the size of Mount Everest.
Before we had even been in the class for an hour, Dr. Cushing found what would hold me back from sharing my thoughts, my work and, honestly, myself in his class… my fear of people making assumptions or harsh judgements.
He was 100% right.
I sucked it up, pushed past my fears, and from there on out the class was an overall amazing experience. I mean, it wasn’t easy breezey (CoverGirl!), but I came every night with a huge desire to learn and write more and push myself creatively.
At the end of the course, we turned in a final portfolio of our best work and poems of all kinds.
The rest of the year went on and I kept writing whenever I found the time or was suddenly overcome with emotion and inspiration. I loved it and there were many times were I wanted to share my poetry publicly…
but I made excuses.
Something about poetry is different. It’s not a typical opinion piece, it’s not my choreography, it’s not my stream of consciousness on a Facebook status.
But it’s important to me that I take the chance of sharing something that I’m proud of. Even if I know it’s not my strongest talent and that I have endless room within the passion to grow.
Seeing Dr. Cushing a few times in this past week reminded me that my poems still haven’t seen the light of day. Until now.
And as I said in a past post, “Here’s to trying to keep it real and not being afraid of giving it a shot.”
( for the longer poems that are hard to read, you can click them and it will bring it to full size )
This last one was too long to fit into a screenshot…
.“Last Night I Went To The Map of San Luis Obispo and I Have Messages For You”
Bishops Peak gave me a postcard for you to remember it by
I misplaced it.
SLO DO CO mentioned it hadn’t seen you in awhile.
I said you were on a diet.
If you ever get a chance, Mother’s Tavern insisted on a visit.
It was awkward when Bulls forgot who you were.
I said not to worry about it,
You don’t remember many nights there anyways
(you don’t want to)
Apparently there’s still a desk with your name
on the fourth floor of Robert E. Kennedy Library
Avila’s shore told me not to say this above a whisper,
Thank you for letting me be the inception of your addiction
What is it talking about?
Grand Avenue asked about your mom,
I didn’t think it was my place to say.
The center of attention was The Madonna Inn.
Not much has changed.
I didn’t see the Architecture Graveyard.
I don’t know if it even showed up.
I think that’s all. Oh wait, the sunset.
It said the same thing as last time
and I gave it my word I would repeat it,
Do you miss us?
Do you know how to get home?