Glass trophy. Thing must have weighed twenty pounds. Crazy.
Now, this post is long overdue (then again, most of my posts are all well beyond expiration and way too short) especially since it’s been over a month since all of these pleasantries have gone down.
In case you haven’t heard (or if I haven’t mentioned it before) I was named the 2013 Elon College Distinguished Alumnus in the Arts & Humanities. No worries, no biggie. There were two other individuals given the same honor alongside me too. And after hearing their incredible contributions to humanity at large, I felt like I should have been overlooked. One contributed to mathematics and pedagogy. The other is a pro-Bono D.C. lawyer taking out the proverbial bad guys.
And me? I wrote a book of poetry that won a prize.
So even if I put the great honor aside, I was flattered even more so by my mentor and friend, Kevin Boyle, who wrote me one of the sweetest, most perfect introductions for the reading and ceremony. I count myself blessed, better, for having known this wonderful, brilliant poet, and to hear him speaking so vibrantly, so beautifully about the musicality of my work, the odd times I found myself lucky to be hanging out and traveling with him to conferences (with two other poets I find to be truly great–Molly Dickinson and Sarah Cox), the interactions in class, on campus, at readings, allowing me to meet other brilliant writers and humans (including Rodney Jones who I would study under and with at grad school). And yet, there he is, and I want to cry and hug him because he is speaking so incredibly of me.
Elon University, under the guise of the award, set up a reading for me as well as a guest lecturer/teacher spot in one of Kevin’s Advanced Creative Writing classes.
Wow. Imagine it. That’s as sweet a scenario as it gets.
I was buzzed (and when I think about it, I still am buzzing about all of it) about being treated so well by a place that helped shape me. I was glad-handing with Trick Daddy Leo (President Leo Lambert of Elon University, or so my wife calls him), nibbling on appetizers and berry deserts with deans and professors. Signing autographs for Belk Library and students and faculty (that I admire) alike.
I am a poet. Does poetry count? Do I deserve an award like this?
These poets, writers, professors, artists, people, had always proved to me that, yes, any and every art form counted–especially poetry. So, the question wasn’t “Does poetry count?”
After a two and a half week holiday in Spain, considering notes, my work, the world and how I fit into it, the way the moon is drifting away from the earth, moths, basements, artificial flavoring, microwavable foods, gigantic squid, the purity and beauty of Islamic art and architecture, I was ready to return and see how I fit into the larger puzzle. On packing up from Rhode Island, moving to North Carolina, I found a note in my Facebook Message box. Apparently, a poem (The Pecking Order) of mine gave “inspiration” to a friend of mine to come out of the closet. To open up to his friends, family. To be who he is. A poem. Gave hope, gave drive to someone to open up. Wow. He trusted me enough, trusted my words to act on them, because of them. I am flattered and amazed.
Anyway, let me keep it simple. Maybe I did deserve a little something. I don’t know if this “Distinguished Alumnus” bit is it, but I guess I am doing something to call out to others.
Whatever the case, you can find the larger story here ab0ut me and the two other FANTASTIC ALUMNI here. And please, do yourself a favor, and read as much as you can of Kevin Boyle’s poetry as possible. And, lastly, if I were you, I would submit to Loose Change, a literary journal operated by Molly Dickinson, that is more than worth your time, reading and submissions.
Long live Elon.