Why I write

I was never much of a fan of English when I was growing up.

Well, I take that back. As a child, my mother read me books, and I was a reading-level ahead of most of my classmates. In elementary school, they gave test in every English class to see what kind of textbook to give to each student, and I was always one of the few using the textbook a grade-level ahead. Also at this point in my life, I was obsessed with R.L. Stine and read Goosebump novels whenever I had free time, including my lunch periods.

But somehow when I got to middle school I lost a passion for reading. I don’t remember liking books at that stage of my life at all actually, and I have no idea why. After my English grades began to slip, I came to the conclusion that I hated English, and acted as such.

High school came and I still hated English, up until my senior year where a teacher named Mr. White changed my life. We read a poem by Langston Hughes titled “Theme for English B,” where Hughes responds to a homework assignment that asks him to “Go home and write a page tonight. And let that page come out of you—Then, it will be true.” What follows is a natural flow of social commentary on the world around him. Mr. White then gave my class the same assignment.

So I went home and just began to write, and what flowed out of me was a poem I called “What is Beauty?” The entire poem is just me trying to figure out what beauty is, asking myself questions in a Socratic way, but never really coming to a conclusion.

I was nervous when I read it in class—my hand shook, and my body perspired. When I looked up after finishing, everyone was silent, but I could see a girl wiping her eyes, and I knew then I was a writer.

From that day on, I loved English again. Not only did I continue reading, but I also started writing, taking a journalism class and writing poetry and short stories. This carried on to college, where I wrote for my school paper, became Editor-in-Chief my schools literary magazine, and minored in Creative Writing.

Afraid of losing my passion for writing, I created this blog my junior year of college. Yes, the blog was created to help me get design jobs and showcase my writing skills, but it was also for myself so I’d have a reason to write.

So there you have it—that’s why I write. Below is the original poem that inspired me and changed my life. Maybe it will do the same for you.

Theme for English B

The instructor said,

Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you–
Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it’s that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me–we two–you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.) Me–who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records–Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?

Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white–
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me–
although you’re older–and white–
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 16th, 2009 at 12:39 pm and is filed under Advice, College, Recommendations. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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