I only hated two professors in college. One because he was misogynist buttface who only liked guys and was openly derisive about women being incapable of creating art because we were busy “focusing on making babies.” I walked out of his class after yelling at him for a good three minutes.
Most people think I am mellow. I am not mellow. Sometimes, I have no chill. This was one of those times.
I was the only woman in that class. My boyfriend was in that class. Two other guys were in that class. Nobody else walked out. Just me.
The other professor taught poetry and liked to tell students that they weren’t real enough or raw enough. She wanted pain. She wanted authenticity. She wanted confessional poetry and most of us just sort of wanted to write about white baseball caps, rainbows, and dolphins.
In retrospect, I sort of feel badly for her because I probably would have gotten frustrated about all those poems about white baseball caps, rainbows, and dolphins, too.
But still. It was what we were right then, a lot of us – baseball caps, rainbows, dolphins.
And the rest of the professors? They were amazing. I had really great professors in theater and poetry even though I was a political science major.
Here’s a letter I wrote to one of them recently when he retired from teaching. I was thinking about this a lot after I reposted my Seamus Heaney blog.
Dear Professor Farnsworth,
I don’t think you will remember me, but I will always remember you because you, your class, and poetry helped save me in a time of my life when salvation seemed highly unlikely.
I spent most of my time at college sick with seizures caused by an Epstein Barr virus that had attacked my brain. I spent most of my time wondering who I was, how I could fit in, and what my voice could possibly be when my broken brain was no longer my own.
You helped me reclaim my voice, but more than that? You helped me expand it.
I was not much of a poet.
I am still not much of a poet.
You had such a voice.
Resonant, understanding, persistent, encouraging.
You read my poems, all our poems – even the ones about vampires, and taught us that even if we didn’t know our voice right then, our voice would find us if we gave it space and attention.
Space and attention.
Space and attention and intention.
Those very same things that you gave to us.
You are one of the best teachers we could ever know.
You taught us to build up ourselves and our poems, to construct our stories and our voice, piece by piece, word by word, symbol by beautiful symbol. You taught us to craft our poems and our lives with patience and love and strength.
Add insight? And that is what you, Robert Farnsworth, represent to me. Patience. Love. Strength. Insight.
Your legacy is huge and important and ripples into so many other lives? So many lives…
You have helped us to become.
Thank you. May your next stanza of becoming be as beautiful as this one has been.
DO GOOD WEDNESDAY
Write a letter to someone who made a difference in your life. Send it.
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