today i'm reminded of many things, but i also recall my early distaste for writing in an imposed genre when it came to writing expectations from teachers. in my ninth grade english class, we were required to write an essay about martin luther king, jr. that my teacher planned to submit to a county-wide essay contest if she thought it good enough (or maybe she submitted everyone's--who's to know). i did not want to write an essay, i wanted to write a poem, even though i knew that i would not be following the rules of the assignment and would not receive a good grade, if any. this was the first time i did something like this -- i never had precocious ideas about writing or remotely thought of myself as a poet. i was not the highest achiever (though i hoped for good grades), nor did i feel the need to impress my teacher because by that point i already felt quite disenfranchised and was more interested in owning a pair of pink boots than i was in attending english class to discuss great expectations. i was not silliman discovering william carlos williams in his local library nor was i j. spahr discovering gertrude stein and writing papers about tender buttons. i didn't know what to read for pleasure -- the year or two before, i mostly read used 10 cent romance novels my friend and i bought at the bookmobile during middle school. i don't recall returning to any semblance of a library (though i'm sure i had to at some point) until college. i can't even remember what my high school library looks like. i used to love reading as a child (well before the awful romance novels) when i loved school then high school happened.
this mlk jr. assignment was the first time i remember waking up in h.s. english class. i knew i had to write a poem instead of an essay if i were going to attempt to be genuine about my feelings regarding civil rights and what little, precious information we had learned about the movement in elementary and middle school (even now in writing this, the journal-entry-with-hints-of-essay-conventions feels somewhat false). and so i wrote my poem, that rhymed because i had few experiences ever writing or reading poems. and i was happy because it felt real.