If you don’t know who Junior Samples is, google him. About 50 years ago, I started writing poetry. Mostly because that when I both discovered there was such a thing and when I learned to write.
At some point, maybe high school, I began to dream about being a Great Poet. I think it was a line in a Dylan song about an Italian poet from the 15th century, or maybe it was Shakespeare. I didn’t share my poems, except one, The Long Coated Stranger. It was trite as it sounds, but it kinda labeled me as a poet in high school. Then in college, where I wrote poems and drew pictures in lieu of taking notes, a buddy of mine asked me to write a poem for his to give to his girlfriend. You guessed it, she wanted to date me. We did have a couple of dates, but it think I was too weird. She went back to the preppy friend, even if he couldn’t write a poem.
Then, in 1995 I began to read at a local Poetry open-mic night at the Lyric Theater in Stuart, FL with the Night Herons. Over the years, thanks to encouragement I received from the more knowledgeable members there, I published over a dozen chapbooks. I submitted a few places and was published a few times. In the last couple of years I have won the monthly Goodreads poetry contest, twice!!
Along the way, a poet friend of mine from the other side of the world, Mark Heyne, turned me onto Coursera, the free on line college course system. I eventually signed up for a wonderful Modern Poetry course at University of Pennsylvania. Yes, Penn, as in Ivy League. But that is the beauty of Coursera and other MOOCs, (massive open online course), they are free, and anybody can sign up and take them.
The professor, Al Filreis, knows a lot about poetry, but he knows even more about teaching! Thanks to him and his course, I have a better understanding of the craft, I thought I knew. I am a bit like a bricklayer, who has troweled mortar for over 50 years. I have gotten reasonably good at expressing myself in my voice. The problem, is, as my lack of any formal education shows, I did not understand how to appreciate any kind of poetry. I loved Maya and Billy, and even kinda enjoyed the Billy from the 16th century, but not Stein, or Dickinson or so many others.
As my eyes were opened, I mentioned to Al, that I would love to come by for a cup of coffee at Kelly Writers House. KWH is where all the great poetry lectures, and more often table discussions are recorded. Al suggested I come for a day, or more. Someday I just might. But, in the past half century, I have come to realize my place in the poetry world. I hold up my little sign and say, “for a good deal on used cars call Honest Samples at BR 549!”
I am that man. I will never be a Billy, Collins or Shakespeare, or even Faulkner, but maybe someday I can sit in front of a mic at KWH and be a Junior….