The C- I received in my Poems and Novels class in first year college made me feel ridiculous for ever considering myself a poet. Never mind that I fell in love with poetry in Grade 8. Never mind that I memorized poems so I could whisper them to myself and feel the thrill of the words rolling off my tongue. Never mind that I wrote my heartache in lyrical language and line breaks all through my high school years.

The C- made me feel like a fake, and yes – it bruised my ego. I stopped writing poetry and stuck to journaling and short stories. I still read other people’s work, and it still moved me. Some of my favourite moments listening to Wayne Dyer on stage was when he recited Emily Dickinson and others, making the words and their meaning come alive. I didn’t completely abandon the art, but I did place a great distance between it and me.

Until 6 years ago, when I was desperately trying to piece myself back together, trying to engage in life with passion instead of listlessness. I was encouraged by an intuitive woman to meet other writers; she thought it would help me unblock. So I Google’d poetry readings+Vancouver and up popped Pandora’s Collective: a registered charity and literary arts organization that makes poetry accessible to all, as a tool for healing and self-discovery.

I took a leap and went out to one of their events in April 2009. It was far from my home and I didn’t know a soul, but it was not as uncomfortable as living a life without my Self. While I want to say I stepped outside my comfort zone, the truth is, I was stepping away from confusion, frustration and sadness, and into a life that was whole.

Fast forward to October 2015: I have been reading my poetry on stages through Pandora’s Collective and on my own for 5 years now. I also host the South Surrey/White Rock Word Whips group under their umbrella – a free, drop-in group where people come and practice writing to prompts.

Nobody has ever questioned my authenticity as a poet. Nobody has sat me down and grilled me on the iambic pentameter or asked me to get off the stage because I broke any kind of rules. Maybe I’m lucky to read to such polite people 🙂 Or maybe…art allows me to be who I am without judgment.

Every time I sit down to write a poem, I have to undo that C- in my head. I have to move past logic and into my heart where my ideas and feelings reside, ready to take flight. I have to allow them their wings and let them show up just the way they want to. And when I am writing for a reading, when I know other poets will also share their work, I have to get to that quiet place inside me that knows we all have stories and we have a right to share them in our own way. I have a right to share my story in my own way.

The more I write and read, the less I have to convince myself to accept ‘poet’ as part of my identity. And after a reading, when someone comes up to me and says my work touched them, I know that is a much deeper satisfaction than that A would have been. I can’t even imagine what my days would look like now,without my art – all of it.

I can’t imagine who I would be right now if that C- was stronger than my soul’s longing.

I’m filled with gratitude today after last night’s poetry reading at the Sidney and Gertrude Zack Art Gallery in Vancouver. I am just filled.

This is me: the poet.

Jewish Community Centre, Vancouver, Sidney and Gertrude Zack Gallery, Pandora's Collective, poetry readings, Vancouver, Lori Goldbert, urban forest

{Photo Credit for this post: Una Bruhns}

Next week I get to do something else I love – I get to facilitate other people’s healing in a poetry workshop at a treatment centre. It is an honour and a privilege to be a facilitator and perhaps, in this light, that C- was a gift: it has taught me to create, share and teach art with love and non-judgement.