Once Upon A Time, I Wrote a Poem and Had Complete Thoughts.

I was cleaning out my bedside table the other day and came across something that catapulted me straight back into my college days.  It was my copy of a compilation book of poetry and short stories that had been entered into our campus-wide writing competition and had won.  I was an English Education major at the time, and now I look back with the fondest of memories on those days spent delving into books while sipping coffee with my friends.  WHAT A LIFE!  Oh wow. I had no idea just how good we had it back then.  😉

Anyway, it just so happens that I entered two poems into the competition that year, and I actually took third place with one of them.  The other poem was included, with a handful of others, in the honorable mention section.

Now 13 years later, rereading my own words right there on the pages of the book, I started to tear up a little.  Sometimes, in the daily grind of wiping little bottoms and noses, preparing endless meals and sippy cups and snacks, cleaning and re-cleaning and re-cleaning my home to no avail, and being too tired at the end of the day to do any sort of cerebral reading, I forget that I used to be a writer.  A reader.  A studier.  A literary analyzer.  A contemplative thinker.  A lover of Jane Austen, The Great Gatsby, Shakespeare, and Garcia Marquez.  I used to hunger for books, thirst for knowledge outside of my tiny sphere of influence, and yearn for more more more reading, thinking, discussing, wondering.

And, for awhile there, I felt like that part of me had gone into hibernation in a sense.  Not for one millisecond would I trade my life now for my life back then.  No way.  No, sir.

However, finding my “award-winning” poem (albeit a very small award at that 😉) reminded me about a part of myself that I’d all but forgotten amidst gestating, breastfeeding, diaper changing, and baby schlepping.  I am so proud of my little poems.  I wrote those.  I made them.  I worked for weeks on them.  I edited and re-edited them.  I thought about their words, their punctuation, and even their shapes.  I woke up from sleep thinking about them.  I nervously carried them to the submission box.  I proudly read them aloud at the awards ceremony.  As a naive 20 years old, I made teeny, tiny, itty, bitty pieces of art, and someone out there noticed.

Anyway, do you want to know what I treasure most about my poems?  The entries were submitted anonymously, but, after the judges chose the winners, the authors’ names were revealed.  After judging and awarding was over, one of my professors whom I greatly respected and had been on the judging panel took the time to let me know that he had voted for my poem to take first place.  He went into great detail about what he respected in my writing, and I will never, never forget that email.  Someone saw my art, and they liked it.

I hope you will, too.

This poem is a reflection on the extremely rigid discipline I learned throughout my many, many years as a ballet student and performer.  To me, ballet is irony at it’s finest.

 

Porcelain Ballerina

by Erin Kern
2004

Head directly forward, chin parallel to the floor, brows up,

mouth smiling, teeth touching;

Shoulders pushed back, never raised, a perfectly even line

from ear to ear;

Arms lifted, taut with palms slightly curved down, fingers

relaxed;

Back gently arched, erect, never slumping, curving,

slouching;

Stomach forever sucked in, sucked in tight, sucking,

sucking;

Buttocks firmly clenched, hips in, square to audience, never

thrust out;

Knees poised for movement, turned out, bent slightly, at

no time locked;

Feet, toes eternally pointed, arches raised from the floor,

retain perfect turn-out;

Now, freely dance.

 


(One of our daughters and her little friends after ballet.  If anyone knows how to freely dance…😉😍)

Thanks for reading my little poem, this small piece of my story.
And thank you for making this blog a happy place full of buddies and smiles!
You guys are awesome!

❤️Erin

 

  1. Lori Rodrigues

    October 9th, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    This is a great poem Erin. I, too, one a state poetry contest in Seventh grade. Although, it seems ridiculous to me now when I read it- I still felt so honored to have my name announced on the school intercom and given an award. But the best thing to me was seeing my name on the school marquee!! Ya know, the old school one with the magnetized letters that the janitor would change out, daily. Those are great moments aren’t they??

  2. Erin | Cotton Stem

    October 9th, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    Of course, that is a big deal, man!!

  3. Patti

    October 9th, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    Love it…
    can almost see the dancer concentrating as she gets into position before she dances. Beautifully written and the picture of your ballerinas is just perfect.

  4. Erin | Cotton Stem

    October 9th, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    Thank you so much, Patti!

  5. Denice

    October 9th, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    Oh how I love your poem! As a former ballet student/performer/teacher/studio owner it resonated so perfectly with my memories as well. Thank you for sharing.

    Oh, and I gotta tell ya that I dreamed the other night that you Face-timed me and I was so happy we were now real life friends 👯. My husband says I gotta stop watching your stories before bed. 🤣 Don’t worry…I’m not a stalker – just thought you’d get a kick out of it 😂

  6. Erin | Cotton Stem

    October 9th, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    Bahahaha, that gave me a good laugh!!!

  7. Olivia

    October 9th, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    How beautiful! It is irony, such rigid determination flowing out so gracefully. I like that you said that piece of you is just hibernating. That’s how I feel when I catch glimpses of the pre baby me. I’m there, just sleeping for now.

  8. Erin | Cotton Stem

    October 9th, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    Sleeping for now…love that.

  9. Marms

    October 9th, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    Remember how proud Jim & Carol were when you sent them a copy of the booklet and poem?????? Still have my copy!

  10. Erin | Cotton Stem

    October 9th, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    Yes! Loved them!

  11. adrienne Hedlund

    October 9th, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    I wrote a short story in the style of Edgar Allan Poe in college and was asked to present it at a reading. I didn’t look up from the page the entire time i was reading it because I was so nervous so when I finally looked up after the last word I saw shock and horror on everyone’s faces (it was rather gory).
    Ha ha. too funny. (Nobody said it was bad, I just don’t think they were prepared for the Poe-esque descriptions).

    P.S. I’m not creepy. I just like Gothic lit.

  12. Teri Stagner

    October 9th, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    Love it! Seasons of life.

  13. Angela/lovebeinganonny

    October 9th, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    I too wrote poetry. Kept my thoughts in books for many years. I pretended to be a famous author. I also thought I could sing like Carol King. But that’s a story for another day! Lol. I love your words! Accurate description of a ballerina!

  14. Holly Scoltock

    October 9th, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    I think your poem is wonderful and having raised a little ballerina myself, it really touched my heart. Don’t ever think that you aren’t doing one of the hardest jobs there is but now and then keep writing, you are certainly gifted at it!!

  15. Kim

    October 10th, 2017 at 12:06 am

    This is such a lovely poem! My oldest son wrote a poem about his brother in 2nd grade and it was featured in, “The anthology of poetry” by young Americans. Aaaaand now I need to go find that book 😆

  16. Adelaide

    October 10th, 2017 at 2:26 am

    When I see your pictures and read your posts, I often think “she’s my kinda girl!” I, too, am a mommy of littles who was once an English major and aspiring poet. I was also selected to read a poem aloud at my college, and so it is not without experience that I say your poem is elegantly crafted. It is ever the challenge of the poet to determine the close of the poem (Frost’s “Stopping by Woods,” anyone?), and you found a way to bring purpose and resolve in just three words.
    Hugs!
    Adelaide

  17. Erin | Cotton Stem

    October 10th, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    Oh I so appreciate this sweet comment!

  18. Heidi

    October 10th, 2017 at 3:11 am

    Thanks for the peek at former Erin. It is fun to look back and remember talents that we’ve let gather a little dust, but like you said… wouldn’t trade this mom gig (maybe parts of it?) 🤣. I really enjoyed the irony of your poem; your professor was right!

  19. Erin Pierce

    October 10th, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    Beautiful ! I too, had planned on being an Secondary Ed- English major, with aspirations of writing “on the side”.. hahaha Then I had five daughters !!! Back it up…. Then I got pregnant, lost all functional brain cells, and such is my life….. which I wouldn’t trade for anything…. except in the moment…. j/k.

  20. Teresa

    October 11th, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Wow! You have described life perfectly. So many demands and expectations from ourselves and society and then we are told to dance… you have a gift with words and I truly enjoyed your poem, thank you for sharing. And as a mother of three, who has been where you are and felt EVERYTHING all you young mothers describe, I’m here to tell you that you will find those past parts of yourself once again down the road, each chapter spills over into the next, and it is a beautiful rediscovery… after 22 years I am writing again, making art, travelling, and just bought a 1911 house on average to renovate and farm , .. thank you again for sharing your beautiful poem 🙂

  21. Erin | Cotton Stem

    October 11th, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    And thank you for taking a sec to read and leave kindness, Teresa!

  22. Ruth

    October 11th, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    I’m relatively new to your blog and Instagram and wanted to let you know how much I enjoy following you. I love your authenticity and the light you shine in this world. I can very much relate to this post. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Erin | Cotton Stem

    October 11th, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    Oh, thank you so much, Ruth!!

  24. Kimberly

    October 12th, 2017 at 3:36 am

    Loved the poem, Erin! Love the power of the final sentence. I had a poem published in my college writing anthology & a short story. I write my first poem at the age of 11 after my Best friend died from leukemia. It was a way to express my pain. I continued writing & had such positive feedback from many teachers & professors. One professor, in fact, mentioned she had a friend in publishing and encouraged me to finish a catcher in the rye-esque story I was writing. One professor took another novel I was writing to read, but unfortunately, I never got it back from her when I transferred
    schools. To make a long story short, when my kids were babies, I found fanfiction & had an audience. It also inspired me to write a novel with my own characters. I decided recently to try indie publushing. So today I received my book proof and held my book for the first time. I would love for you to read it when it is completed if you so desire. The genre is: (literary fiction/historical/romance) From one SAHM aspiring writer to another, your creative voice, your love of language, your desire to express, will never be muted. It’s second nature. Kim xx

  25. Kimberly

    October 12th, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    I failed to mention In the above comment. I’m @kimberly_seasonsina1916home 😘An old friend before you got so famous!! 😂😂

  26. Erin | Cotton Stem

    October 13th, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Ha ha, thank you, old friend!

  27. Josi

    October 13th, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    that was beautiful. thank you for sharing.

  28. Erin | Cotton Stem

    October 13th, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    Thank you for reading!

  29. Chels Rief

    October 14th, 2017 at 4:46 am

    Oh Erin, as a former ballerina ( I too, danced for years…and quit because it became to rigid for me), I just love this walk down memory lane as well. I’m full on in the threshold, once again of babydom – having just welcomed our 4th (and final baby) into the world a mere 4 weeks ago. I remember the beauty and grace the dance held for me, but also the tears of fighting against my feet rolling so that I could achieve the perfect turnout. Beautiful post. Beautiful poem. Thank you for reminding me of a life from long ago.

  30. Renée

    January 1st, 2018 at 7:24 pm

    I love this, Erin. Beautifully written! Just priceless!

  31. Carol Taylor

    January 2nd, 2018 at 12:51 am

    So touched by your poem and how special to have it on a coffee mug. What a treasured gift!! Love love!!!!

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