A Word finds a Way

File this under “you just never know.”

Back in October of 2009, when my now nearly-nine-year-old was three, I tweeted this:

word in wilderness1

Over the next few days, I tweeted several other senryu on the subject of prayer, all of them echoing the phrase “How God talks to me” or “How I talk to God.” I skipped them like stones on the twitter stream. And then I forgot about them (sort of).

Fast forward two and a half years. At the last minute I was putting together a collection of poetry to submit to Finishing Line Press’s New Women’s Voices Chapbook Competition. I edited my series of tweets on prayer as one piece (“How I talk to God”), and included it in my collection. That was February 2012. I submitted my chapbook and forgot about it (sort of).

Six months went by, and I figured I didn’t win, since I hadn’t heard anything yet. Then I got an email that told me who the winner and semi-finalists were (confirming what I already had guessed) – not me. And within a few days of that, I got another email from FLP telling me they’d like to publish Three Ways of Searching, my chapbook, the one I mailed to them six months prior – which to me was the whole point, so … I won (sort of… right?).

mybookIn May 2013, Three Ways came out, and that was super exciting, then the really weird part happened: all my friends and family who bought it (out of kindness and friendship and family ties, I assumed) were actually reading it. They read it in private and emailed me their thoughts about my wee words (as most of the poems were haiku or tanka, very wee indeed). Or they made funny references in passing about some of the pieces, which made me feel good because it was like an unbelievably cool inside joke.

And they read it in public, in groups. One poem that found traction as a responsive public reading was “How I talk to God.” I don’t know how that happened, whose idea it was originally, as I was never there to enjoy it. I would hear about it later, from thousands of miles away. And I would smile and shake my head, thinking, “Well, what do you know. Who would have thought?”

One of the participants of those responsive readings in the summer of 2013 was the poet Malcolm Guite. In Spring of 2014, Malcolm was putting together an anthology of poems for Lent and Easter. He asked if he could use “How I talk to God” in it. I was completely blown away. (I said yes.)

In November 2014, that anthology, The Word in the Wilderness: A Poem a Day for Lent and Easter, was published by Canterbury Press Norwich. My poem appears on the Thursday of Lent’s second week.

Word-in-the-Wilderness-cover-187x300

And here I am looking at my tweets that had been scattered to the twitterverse back in 2009 now scattered across an actual print page:

How I talk to God 1

What’s even more remarkable and pinch-me inducing is that a for-reals poet (Malcolm) writes about my poem within the same context as George Herbert!

word in wilderness

[[Are you kidding me? I am not going to play it cool, folks. No way. THIS IS AWESOME!!!!!]]

Okay, regaining composure…

And that’s my story of how the unexpected happens and how a tweet finds a life of its own.

Now, please, go buy Malcolm’s book. Besides mine and George Herbert’s, there’s Malcolm’s own amazing work as well as poems by Holly Ordway, John Donne, Seamus Heaney, Gwyneth Lewis, and many more fine poets from across the centuries.

As for you aspiring poets out there: keep writing, tweeting, blogging, telling, submitting, sharing.

You just never know.

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6 thoughts on “A Word finds a Way

  1. Mary Mueller says:

    It is AWESOME! The poem, its genesis, its journey, and Malcolm’s inclusion and comments- all of it! It is one of my favorites, possibly my very favorite, from “Three Ways of Searching.” Congratulations!

  2. Bill Waters says:

    I’m so happy for you, Kelly — and for the people your poem has touched! It’s amazing how art, in whatever its form, can spread under the right circumstances…

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