If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must.

I remember when I first fell in love. 

I was sitting in freshman English class, bored out of my mind because the class was sucking (as usual) all of the wonder and magic and poetry out of something. I’m thinking it was probably Romeo and Juliet. If you sat through my freshman year English class, and were a visitor from another planet, you’d think Romeo and Juliet was a play about two arguing families, and also “don’t commit suicide, kids, it’s wrong, ‘kay? Thanks.” 

I loved this movie version. The other kids in the class catcalled all the way through it. Sigh times a million.

SO EFFING BORED. 

So I did what I always did when I was bored: I skipped around in the textbook. 

What, you didn’t do this in class? You instead daydreamed about cute boys or girls or something? Ugh, whatever, what a waste of your time. I WAS CAPABLE OF DOING BOTH, OK? My hormones were on high alert at that point in my developmental history and I was (and remain) very multitasky. 

Yes, because I went to class in 1955, sure.

So, I skipped ahead in the textbook and got to the poetry section. The poetry section! Now, that seemed good. Quick reads, I could sneak them in while still half-paying-attention to what was happening in class and also daydreaming about making out with the boy with the joyful laugh two rows over and one row up. 

Up until that point, I wasn’t a poetry person. I knew it EXISTED, of course – who didn’t? – but I hadn’t read much, or at all, and I would be hard pressed to tell you any poets. I probably could have told you Emily Dickinson, I guess. We all know Emily Dickinson. It’s like we’re born, and someone tells us, “There’s this poet, Emily Dickinson. That’s going to be on the test later, remember that.” 

I’ve always liked ol’ Emily. She’s cool with me, yo.

I flipped around. The teacher was about to ask a question, and I knew it would fall on me to answer it. It always did, because I was the only person in class who’d read the play. I found a short poem. Good, that would do.  

I wonder if there’s ever any tickling in the back of a poet’s brain, when he’s writing a poem, that 44 years later, it will grab a fourteen-year-old girl and spin her around so hard it will change her entire course in life? Probably not. But maybe there’s a whisper there. A hint. The knowledge you found the perfect words in the perfect sequence, and that they’ll hit the perfect reader at the perfect time and take root. Maybe. 

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
Randall Jarrell 

From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose. 

I read the first lines and thought, huh, war poem, ok. Interesting language. I like “fell into the State.” I like “State” being capitalized. Ooh, I like “wet fur.” Oh. “nightmare fighters,” nice. 

Then I got to the last line and every bit of me froze up. I was still. I could hear my breath. I read it again and again. Tears welled up in my eyes.

When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose. 

Simply put. No complaints, no mourning, no wailing. A statement of fact, a boy probably not much older than me, writing his own elegy. 

Also, here’s Randall Jarrell, all beardy, with his cat. Do you love him more now? I do. Thanks, Randall.

When the teacher called on me to provide an answer to something (I don’t know what, what holy palmers’ kiss meant? Why Mercutio was named thus? The utter inadequacy of parental units in the play? Who can remember such things?) I had no answer. I was in the belly of a plane with a boy about to die. 

Here’s a ball turret. The visual makes it more arresting, doesn’t it?

We never studied that poem in the poetry unit. I asked the teacher why. She didn’t seem surprised. I don’t know that there was a single class that passed without me staying after to ask her something. “Parents complain about that one,” she said. “Because the narrator dies.” 

I fell in love with poetry sitting in a class reading a poem I wasn’t supposed to read at a time I wasn’t supposed to be reading it. This kind of sums me up perfectly, for those of you who know me. 

I read everything I could get my hands on (I don’t remember where I was when I ate my first peach or when I found out that there was no Easter Bunny but I can tell you not only exactly where I was but what I was doing the first time I read Poe’s “Annabel Lee”) and then one day I thought, huh, can I do this? 

Sorry, Cusack, I love you, but I’m not going to ever see “The Raven” because I don’t want to see you shit all over my man Edgar here. Thanks, though.

I could. And I did. And at first, as with anything, I wasn’t very good at it. But I kept doing it. Because I loved it. Because it felt good to do it. Because the thrill of getting the exact right words out at the exact right time was better than almost anything. Because you could look back on a poem and feel the emotions you were feeling when you wrote it.  

I wrote all through high school. I went to college with every intention of being pre-med, until I realized I was not at all good at paying attention to either math or science, but I was quite good at the arts, and moved over to a creative writing degree. I took poetry class after poetry class. I attended readings. I participated in one myself (poorly – I can act from a script sufficiently, but ask me to get up in front of people and read something I’ve written myself, and you get mouse-voice and near-angina.) I started submitting poetry to journals for publication, and when one finally got accepted, I don’t know that I’ve ever been prouder of anything I’ve ever done in my life up until that point. Yes, it was a tiny publication, nothing that would be read by more than a handful of people. That wasn’t the point. I was published. My name was in a publication. I was a writer. Someone, someday, might read something I’d written and think, oh. OH. I can do this. I want this. I want to do this, too. 

I continued to write and submit. Sometimes my poetry was accepted, sometimes it wasn’t. I learned to accept rejection gracefully (because listen, if you’re a poet, you get a lot of it.) I did another brief reading not long after I moved to the area. Ten years passing hadn’t made me much braver. Still mouse-voice and heart palpitations. I kept writing. I had long breaks where I didn’t do much of anything, but I kept writing poetry. Some of it was terrible; some of it went unfinished; some of it was the most emo nonsense that ever emod. But I kept writing it. 

And, at the end of March, I got an email from my friend Jenn. Jenn writes at The Loser’s Table with me and I love her like crazy. 

Hi, the email said. I’m starting a small press. If you, or anyone you know, has anything they’ve written that might be publication-worthy, and you’re interested, please let me know. 

I thought, huh. I have poetry. I have poetry, and some of it is good, I think. No, I know. I know some of it is good. I know we’re supposed to be all humble-pie about ourselves, because otherwise people think we’re assholes, but sure, some of the shit I’ve churned out over the years should never see the light of day, but some of it? Is good.  

And I have enough of it to make a book of it. 

So I mulled and mulled and mulled and that little self-doubting voice in the back of your head that’s all “you SUCK! Who would read that? NO ONE! No one would read that! NO ONE CARES! Jenn will take one look and laugh! LAUGH AND LAUGH!” got super-loud and obnoxious, and then I thought, you know what? You don’t lose anything by trying.  

And oh, how I’ve dreamed of having an ISBN of my very own since I was a wee one entering my first library. Oh, how I’ve dreamed that. 

Of my very OWN. Multiple ones of these. OF MY VERY OWN. (Dad says the government will most definitely be tracking me now.)

So I emailed Jenn. “SEND ME SOME POETRY!” Jenn said. (No, not in rude all-caps. That’s all me.) I did. And she liked it. “We’re a go, more, please,” she said. Simple as that. A book? Yep. A book with my name on it. A book of my poetry. A book. 

So for the past three months, I’ve been editing, collecting, re-writing, and writing new poetry. Going through twenty years of poetry and choosing the best stuff. I did this on top of writing this every day, and doing all of the other things I’ve been doing. And last night, at 10:30, I sent Jenn the last poems, and the general housekeeping-y stuff like a list of previously-publisheds and thank-yous and such. (Also, just a small side note – Jenn’s been amazing to work with through this. A-MA-ZING. I can’t even say enough amazing things, I just can’t. I’m utterly blown away.) 

I didn’t want to tell you until I was done. But I am. Done. All done. I wrote a book of poetry. That will be published in August. With my name on it. MY NAME WILL BE ON IT. I will have MY OWN ISBN. Multiple ISBNs! For the multiple formats! MINE MINE MINE! 

(A couple people know. Thank you, people who know, for not telling everyone. I know I was weird about keeping it all on the down-low. I don’t like to count chickens before they hatch. What if I got in a catastrophic car wreck before I finished? Wouldn’t I feel ridiculous if I announced I had a book coming out and then it never happened? YES I WOULD.)

Oh, and the title. Ready? It has a title. Which I am in love with.  

Out of True. 

And here’s the exciting part. You can buy it. If you want to, I suppose. I know, poetry’s not everyone’s thing. I’m down with that. It’s not all ZOMGs and YOU GUYS. My poetry’s a little more serious than my blog. Promise. Or, I guess, I’m sorry, rather than promise, if you were expecting poems about vaginas and aliens and badly-written porn. Oh, shit, though, there’s totally one about the zombie apocalypse, I’m not even kidding. 

OK. So, in about a month and a half, you can buy my book. I will let you know how. It will be available in many e-reader formats, as well as a gorgeous paperback copy. I will be talking about this probably until you get so sick of me and GET OVER YOURSELF AMY so, apologies in advance. But, yeah. I wrote a book. I WROTE A BOOK. I might be so excited I can’t sit still right now. 

It’s early, but I know I have some booky-reviewy-type people who read this. If you review poetry, and would like to review it, please let me know – I’d appreciate it times a million, and I’ll get your contact information to Jenn, who will get it to you in whatever format you desire. 

It’s only twenty years in the making. I think that’s very timely. 

You guys. YOU GUYS. 

I wrote a book. 

(The title is a quote from Anne Lamott’s brilliant Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Highly recommended if you write, want to write, like to write, know a writer, like to read, or just like beautiful things. Most sincerely.)

About lucysfootball

I'm not the girl with the most cake. Someday. SOMEDAY. View all posts by lucysfootball

77 responses to “If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must.

  • blogginglily

    awwwww. . . AMY!!! SO AWESOME!!! A published author and poet!!! You are made of win! Decocted and decanted into magic beakers of poetry.

    Now, don’t think this changes my opinion of poetry (namely that is sucks), but YOU. . . well I may have to buy YOUR poetry.

    Also, I watched the Olivia Dehussey or whatever her name is version of Romeo and Juliet because she was STACKED and shows boob!!! Boys did not catcall when Olivia got bareass for about 2 tenths of a second in OUR english class, because we were staring poleaxed at her bare boob. It spawned google image searches later in life for me (you know. . . after google was invented. . .).

    Congratulations!

    Like

  • sj

    ZOMG, this was the big surprise you’ve been working on?!

    Holy crap, I am THE MOST EXCITED ABOUT THIS AMY!!!!!!!

    Gah, I think I’m going to cry. Congratulations. You’re amazing. I can’t wait to read it.

    Like

  • Rich Crete

    Congratulations! Major props!
    Maybe I be the first to suggest changing the name of the blog to:
    Lucy’s Fancy Pants Football

    Like

  • Tara Lindsey

    Amy …

    Congratulations on the big announcement!!! I was there with Jennifer last night when your email came through, and we were both so happy for you!

    And for the record, having your own ISBN is all sorts of awesome!!!

    Hugs … TL

    Like

  • Nicole

    I am so very excited for you!!

    Like

  • Jericha Senyak (@JerichaSenyak)

    YAY!!!!

    I mean, really, in case I didn’t make it clear: YAY!!!!

    That is so so SO many kinds of awesome. The whole story is awesome. (I remember the first time I read a poem that had an ending that hit me like that. I don’t remember which poem it was. I just remember exactly the same reaction as the one you described.) And I am so in favor of any story in which POETRY WINS! I can’t wait to buy your book! Hooray!

    Like

  • Charleen

    Wow! That’s a huge accomplishment! I’m SO not a poetry person; I probably wouldn’t even like poems about vaginas and aliens and badly-written porn. But regardless… that’s crazy exciting! Congrats!

    Like

  • Andreas Heinakroon

    Wow.

    *stunned silence*

    I’m impressed. Truly.

    Amy, that’s just amazing! I’m so happy for you! And of course I’ll buy a copy – I’ll make an exception and buy the paper copy (somehow, poetry works better on paper) instead of the usual e-book copy. It’s somehow fitting it’ll be the first paper copy I’d buy in years.

    P.S. I love the title!

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      Thank you! I’m so glad you like the title! I thought and thought and thought and when I came up with that, I fell in love. I’m so glad people like it as much as I do!

      I love that you’ll have a copy! That gave me tears. Thank you, Andreas!

      Like

  • Emily M.

    YAY FOR YOU AMY!!!!!!!!!!! That is very, very exciting!!

    Like

  • davidjfuller

    Amy: CONGRATS. How you manage to do this on top of blogging such wonderful stuff I will never know, unless you are folding time somehow. But this is fantastic news. Love the title, as well.

    Like

  • Beth Johnson (@ladypembroke)

    Congratulations, Amy! This news is awesome!!!

    (And, FWIW, I have a copy of “Bird by Bird” on my desk. It’s next to several other writing books. Some day…)

    Like

  • davidjfuller

    By the way, that poem told from the gunner’s point of view reminds me of a heartbreaking WW II true story. In brief: when an RCAF Lancaster bomber was hit by German fire, the engines failed and the plane was on fire. The CO ordered everyone to abandon the plane as it went down. One of the airmen, Andrew Mynarski, noticed before he jumped that the gunner was trapped in his turret and went to help him. Unfortunately he couldn’t get the entrance to the turret open and by that point his clothing and parachute were catching fire. The gunner signalled him to go and save himself; Mynarski did, but the plane was so low, and his parachute so damaged, that his jump was unsuccessful — he died. The story only came out because, amazingly, the gunner survived the crash. Later, when the air crew reunited, they all learned what Mynarski had done and they petitioned to have him commended for his bravery. After the war, Mynarski was awarded the Victoria Cross — I believe, the last Canadian to receive that honour.
    Sorry, I know this is a bit off-topic but when I read things like the poem you quoted from above, which was beautiful, I think of this story.

    Like

  • Cara V. (@fictionalchick)

    oh yay, you finally announced it! about time ;)

    Like

  • BFF

    I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of you! i can’t wait to read it. Congratulations!

    Like

  • Mer

    Love you, proud of you, happy for you times a million! *MUAH*

    Like

  • Steph (or thegingerpire)

    That’s awesomesauce squared!!! Congratulations!

    Like

  • Rebecca Amy Todd (@RebeccaAmyTodd)

    Wow huge congrats! That was very courageous of you to share such intimate work.

    Like

  • Heather

    THIS. IS. AWESOME.

    I’m so happy for you! Yay! Congratulations, Amy. I can’t wait to read your book.

    YOUR BOOK.

    Like

  • greengeekgirl

    YAY! I’m not only THE MOST HAPPY for you but I’m also happy that I can totes tell people now. YAYAYAYAYAYAY!

    Like

  • Elizabeth

    First things first: I am so very excited for you and cannot wait to buy your book (YOUR BOOOOOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). ZOMG.

    Second: “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” is one of my favorite poems of all time. Of ALL time. I teach it to my students every year, even if they have had it before. Have you read “The Ballad of Richard Cory”? It is another of my favorites.

    I can’t wait to read your poems.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      Thank you! I know, right? I’m bouncing like I’m on springs today now that I can finally tell you all. (Well, I could have told you sooner, but didn’t want to, because I’m weird and wanted all my ducks in a row.)

      Oh, I love Richard Cory. LOVE. Have you heard Simon & Garfunkel’s version of it? It’s haunting and melancholy and wonderful. If you haven’t, find it. You’ll love it.

      Thank you! I can’t wait for you to read them!

      Like

      • Elizabeth

        We actually compared S&G’s version to the original. I love using music in the classroom. Before I get all English nerdy on your blog, I better stop. It is so rare that I find someone who knows (and loves) poetry like I do.

        Oh, on behalf of good English 9 teachers everywhere, I apologize for your teacher’s bad behavior. When someone tells me that they hate R&J, I always tell them that they must have had a bad teacher. We have so much fun doing it in my classroom!

        Like

        • lucysfootball

          She was a nice lady, but she was beaten down by life and generation after generation of apathetic freshmen, I think!

          You do? Oh, that’s awesome to compare the two! I love that! What a great lesson! You really are a kickass teacher. The kids are so lucky to have you!

          Like

  • Aleks (@yeksovic)

    Wow, congratulations! Well done!

    Like

  • Jill

    Yay Amy! That is the most excellent news! I can’t even imagine how amazing it must feel. I agree with Andreas that poetry seems to work better on paper and I can’t wait to purchase a copy. I hope your author’s photo on the book will include Dumbcat. That would be the best. Congratulations!

    Like

  • ProfMomEsq

    Okay. Now that I am home and not trying to piece this together from a random-seeming Twitter feed …

    CONGRATULATIONS! This is incredible, awesome, inspirational news. I hope you feel enormously proud of yourself, because you SHOULD. This accomplishment is the fruition of all your hard work — twenty years of it! What an incredible reward for living (and sometimes enduring) that journey. I cannot wait to read YOUR poems.

    Hey, Amy. Guess what? You’re an AUTHOR. :-)

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      Thank you! It was a kick going through them all and remembering what prompted them and where I was when I wrote them/who inspired them. I don’t need to go to my class reunion. I had good reminiscing all on my lonesome.

      Like

  • lynnettedobberpuhl

    Freaking AWESOMESAUCE!! I am thrilled for you and can’t wait to read it. Congratulations and LOVE the title!

    Like

  • jennabenda

    This is an even better surprise than the random free Nutella I got in my mail today! Congratulations!! Your poetry post on IB put poetry back on my radar so hard that now I’m super excited to buy a book! Of poetry! By you! What an amazing opportunity for you, and obviously one you have been building towards for yeeears – whether you knew it our not.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      I *saw* that you got random free Nutella – how exciting is that? The most, is how!

      Thank you so much! I’m so excited, and I’m even more excited for everyone to read it and to hear what everyone thinks! Eee! :)

      Like

  • Kris Rudin

    Oh, Amy! A book! Of YOUR poems!! I am nearly crying. Really. It is so absolutely wonderful!! I cant wait to buy it! I’m not a total poetry geek, but when I read good ones, I am moved in ways that prose does not move me. So I think I have an appreciation for good poetry at least, and have a few favorites, even.

    But this comment isn’t about me, it’s about YOU! A soon to be published author!! I can’t even imagine how it feels to be you right now!

    And the title? Yeah. Perfect. Just. Perfect.

    You go, girl!!!

    Like

  • Kris Rudin

    Oh, and sorry I haven’t commented lately. I’ve been sick and have just now caught up on your blogs- I hadn’t read any since last Friday!!

    Like

  • lahikmajoe

    I’m celebrating this by cleaning body parts out of a ball turret, as it were.

    Like

  • elaine4queen

    i’ll be needing a signed copy.

    it’s best if you put something along the lines of “i couldn’t have done it without you” as a dedication, because i haven’t written one myself and i need all the reflected glory. kthx.

    Like

  • miskadoodlewrites

    BUYING. BUYING IT SO HARD. Congratulations! And it’s coming up so fast, how amazing does that feel?! I can’t wait to read it!

    Like

  • Danielle

    Congratulations! That is amazing and exciting!

    Like

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  • Rosie

    Very much looking forward to this book. Can we pre-order? :D

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      Thank you! :)

      I’m actually not sure how that works – I’m not sure if the link only goes live to order on August 1, or if you can pre-order and it ships August 1! I check that page EVERY DAY, though, so I’ll be sure to let everyone know! Not that I’m obsessed, or anything. Ahem. Heh.

      Like

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