About the Author
Mindy Nettifee was born in Iowa but spent her formative years in Southern California. She is a graduate of Chapman University and the director of the nonprofit poetry organization Write Now Poetry Society, which she co-founded with actress Amber Tambyln. She has taught poetry workshops at community centers, schools and universities across the country for 15 years, and has curated poetry events for the Smithsonian, the Getty Center, GirlFest, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and more.
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INTRODUCTION It's hard to say exactly when I fell in love with poetry. George Michael was still straight. My mom drove something with rust-colored interiors. So, let's not do the math. Let's just say with certainty I was young, and that besides my youth, there wasn't anything striking or cinematic about it. I didn't live in the storm shelter of a public library, or wear peasant skirts, or sit in trees memorizing Keats. I wasn't a beautiful orphan. My parents weren't ex-patriot literary scholars smoking Gitanes in the kitchen. I did have an old paperback Norton Anthology of Poetry that I stole from a Sunday School. The one with the yolk yellow cover and vaguely Greco-Roman art. The pages smelled like basement, or tornado, and were not uniformly loved. Chaucer was crisp as brand new bibles; Berryman was dog-eared and smudged. I liked how heavy it was. I liked the difficult words. I liked the even more difficult syntax that made reading aloud like chewing leather. Mostly, I liked the way none of it made sense to me. It made the book feel stolen in more than one way. It was like a chronicle of ancient mysterious secrets had fallen in to my possession, and it was all written in impossible code. Learning to understand it, I knew, meant learning a foreign language. Maybe several. There were things in this book that I was not supposed to know - why else would it be written so strangely? Surely, I thought, if I studied it long enough, everything there was to know about life would be revealed to me. It is not hard to say when I fell out of love with poetry - it was early Spring of 2005. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but I didn't know it. An epic, space-black despair was swallowing me, and the one thing that had always added so much juice and church to my life now felt stiff and lifeless. Poetry had never been a career goal. I was pretty sure poetry careers were just legends anyway. Like narwhals. Or the gold standard. But poetry had been everything else to me. I had gone regularly to open mics and poetry readings since I was just shy of 13, and at these unruly caffeinated gatherings I found people who are, to this day, the most eccentric and emotionally unstable people I've ever met. I worshipped them. They weren't like other people. They were smart and free and weird, and they weren't always nice, or good, but they were urgent and alive. It inspired me.