I’d stayed home from school one day in second grade with a ravenous cold. As I attempted to sleep the day away, our home phone continued to ring (remember landlines? those were kinda dope) bringing me out of my slumber. I’d curse the thing—salesman!— they’d never quit calling.
After one of the phone calls, however, my mom came over to the couch where I writhed and tapped me on the shoulder. As I woke up, frustrated with her, the world, whatever cruel God would place such an illness on such a dashing boy, she had an anticipatory smile on her face. That’s when she broke the news: The Scary Story Contest I had entered; I’d won it!
And so I got to read my story at the Tattered Cover Book Store in front of what I construed to be a very large crowd in a Dracula costume. Oh, Oscar Wilde would have been so proud. The costume was truly fabulous and daring. After coming off that stage having read my story about a little girl devoured by undead lizards, I knew: I am a writer.
I managed to exist as such for some time. Then high school came around and I became much more concerned with baseball, reality television, and doing everything I could to beard my budding gayness. I was so deep in the the darkest corner of the closet I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face, let alone find a pencil and paper to write something of interest.
And I was off to undergraduate college as a business major. Somehow—and I do not know to this day what possessed me to go to school at the University of Iowa (the universe conspiring, perhaps?)— I ended up underneath the umbrella of one of the great creative writing cultures in the world. I found myself reborn as an artist, and switched my major to creative writing.
I’m so lucky to have ended up as a poet, whatever that might mean. The art form holds something truly special, a sort of duende, as Lorca would have it, that has touched and transformed my life. My notebook has been my greatest therapist (along with, of course, my actual therapist). Reading a great poem is one of the truest forms of ecstasy one can experience. As far as writing a great poem, well, maybe I’ll find out what that feels like soon enough.
So, we write on. Always, we should write. Always, we should read. The program at CSU is so healthy, and works for so many writers. There is a genuinity in the approach to writing. There is a love and care for the mediums in which we operate.
Everyone’s creative journey is necessary and worthwhile. Art is what matters.
Jack Berning is a first-year MFA candidate in poetry. His other passions include playing guitar and snowboarding.