“The poetry of the earth is never dead.”John Keats
I was a weary eight-year-old, bored of the lulling rhythms of my family’s Toyota Previa as it pulled me further northward to Wisconsin. It would be my first trip to my cousin’s new, wintery home. As always, I had packed my journal, and a handful of books. So far the journal only contained measly childlike information: crushes, highlights of a day, which sibling I was mad at, etc.
But as I stared out the window, it’s glass cooling my forehead and hair, I took in the vast plains of Illinois. They were endless pools of gold against the sunlight. The sky and the road were its frames, and I suddenly wished that the van could stop, that I could close the distance between my small self and the glittering expanse and find whatever treasure was lying in wait for me there. I felt it. I wanted it. And the desire birthed my first poem.
Had I already been holding my journal? My small little notebook with a lock? I can’t even remember. But I found myself writing down a dream about the plains. It rhymed. It had rhythm. It had a true theme of expansion, of things bigger than myself, of awe and of wonderment. But of course, it was in its own special way… pitiful.
But most first poems are, aren’t they? They are attempts. They are leaps of bravery that can go so far, even if at that moment they are short simple. The poem was not only titled “The Plains”, but it was itself very plain, boring, and certainly not enticing by itself. And yet I will never forget it. And most importantly, I’ll never forget the power of nature, of the world beyond the small van that I was traveling in, that inspired my thoughts to expand, to roam across those plains in my adventurous childhood imagination, and to write down where my young mind decided to venture.