Sunday, November 3, 2019

DIAMONDS IN MY BACK YARD

"Acres of Diamonds" is a story about an Indian farmer who sells his farm and searches the world for wealth, and after he dies penniless, the man who bought his farm finds diamonds there. I was reminded of this story when my second daughter came over to spend the afternoon with me on the seventh anniversary of my husband's death. I had given her a copy of the chapbook I've been working on which is now called "Portal of Light" after several earlier iterations, since she was an English and History major at UCSD and started working on a PhD in English at UCLA.  She frequently had asked me to edit some of her papers, and I was struck by how insightful her critiques were.  I expected her to make a few comments on word choice or perhaps the order in which I include poems that had already been published in what will probably be a 20 to 25 page chapbook.
Instead, when she offered to go over some of her comments, I discovered that she had filled two pages with an analysis of the structure of the whole and with suggestions for areas that needed to be expanded, things that could be taken out, sections that could be moved, and a place where she thought another poem should go. I was almost dumbstruck that she had taken so much time and effort with my work when she has six children, three of whom are taking horn lessons, five of whom are playing soccer, and the youngest is only two.  
I worked on the chapbook in the following week, and gave her a revised copy the next time she was over. I also asked her about some of her notes, which we hadn't had the chance to look at when she was here before.  We went over the whole poem, moving sections about and noting where I still need to add more, taking some of the poems out that I had thought of including, but adding another one and finding the right section for it. I had put a few lines in about the next youngest sister, Theresa, and how she brought about an amazing experience at the Grand Canyon, and she insisted that I needed to expand that so that the poem would really reveal Theresa's unique gifts.  
This daughter, Mary, was the one about whom my husband had said that he couldn't wait for her to go to college because when she was in high school she seemed to push my buttons, my mother's buttons, and often even my husband's buttons, creating stress and drama in our family. But now, the fact that she and I are so similar in some ways has brought us closer and made me very thankful that she lives close enough that I usually get together with her once or twice a week.
Also, because we were both English majors (although, as I said before, I was only an English major for one year), I had assumed that our gifts were similar. When I thanked her for taking so much time to go over my poem, she told me that this is what she loves to do, and it was obvious from her extended critique that it was a work of love.  I, on the other hand, was always more about creating and synthesis than analysis. Since the death of my mentor, I haven't really had anyone to comment on my poetry, but now I have found someone--a daughter who is not only knowledgeable as a critic but who also is part of the family about which I'm writing so that her deft touch with my poetry also shines with the light of love.

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