I am going to tell you a story that I haven’t told anyone. The story isn’t necessarily funny, unless you find squashing the dreams of an eighteen-year-old humourous. If you do, get ready for some giggles. I’m telling it because I just remembered that I had some poetry “published” online (from the high school years) and I put them up in my “Other writings” page for a laugh… and a reminder.
I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My mom gave me a diary when I was seven, and I haven’t really stopped writing since. I would fill notebooks with stories, personal thoughts and a lot of poems. Poetry, back then, came easily to me because I had a knack for rhyming. I could write a decent poem (often with an a-b-c-b rhyme scheme) in no time.
In high school, I kept writing poems, but it was way less cute. There was no more rhyming, just teen angst and the odd alliterative phrase. I probably thought I was the deepest person around (as most teenagers do) because my poems were mostly criticisms of the world as I saw it. When I think about it now, I want to go back in time and give myself a smack (as most adults do).
Anyway, I had this one poem in particular that I uploaded onto http://www.poetry.com. I wanted to share Sanguine Sonnet with the world. It was about Canadian values, which I believed were crumbling (I have no point of reference, so don’t ask for one).
When I received a letter from the head honcho of the poetry.com, congratulating me on my masterpiece, it confirmed what I already knew about my writing: I was a natural artist, ahead of my time. In his letter, the president told me that he chose my poem to be featured in that year’s collection of poems. Of course, I wouldn’t have to pay for this honour but I was encouraged to buy copies (on sale for $50) for myself and my family.
What an honour! I ordered a copy and got ready to be famous.
When the book arrived, my poem was conveniently on the first page. I was shocked. As if they would choose my poem to start the book off. But being the egomaniac that I was, I figured that SOMEone had to be the first, why not me? The book, by the way, was called “The Journey.”
What finally convinced me that it was a scam was when I read the other poems and found that they were utter crap. There was no way anyone would publish a poem called “My Mangy Cat,” not in a book called “The Journey” at least. I googled the company and found hundreds of “poets” claiming that they were also on the front page. No two copies were alike.
I felt like an idiot for three reasons.
1. I was conned AND I still owed my mom $50.
2. I had already told people that I was being published. I had a fan club. People were legitimately proud of me. I had to tell them the truth (which I never did).
3. Sanguine Sonnet was featured right next to a poem about a toilet in Brooklyn.
The only thing keeping me from complete self-loathing was that I didn’t purchase a extra page with a personal dedication on it, only $20 extra. I figured the power of my sonnet spoke for itself. Guh!
Even now, I still get letters from poetry.com, inviting me to recite my special poem at some conference. Of course, they understand that I might not be able to attend, allowing me to send $50 to have someone else read it in my stead.
We all need a lesson in humility. I learned mine for fifty bucks, which I guess is cheap when you consider how much it takes to realize the dangers of gambling.