20 years later…

While in college, I enjoyed many activities and pursuits, though I received about as many “no” responses as “yes” ones. After auditions for a play, my name usually didn’t make the final cast list. Same for a few music groups. Really, I didn’t spend too much time dwelling on the closed doors, as there were very special opportunities in which I was eventually involved – two plays, a total of seven music groups over four years, theater crew. On the side, I also wrote, primarily required types of academic things, but sometimes songs or little bits of verse, and I remember entering a couple of poems in an annual competition for publication in the campus literary journal Parnassus. And like a role in Steel Magnolias, this was apparently not my destiny.

So why the “blast from the past” here? I wrote an article for our town’s weekly paper, The SEG-way News, that tells the story. (SEG stands for South Eastern Grant, the county area in which we reside, so its news is that of Matthews and Upland.) The article appeared in last Friday’s edition, so I’ll share it below:

Each spring, Taylor University publishes a campus literary journal, showcasing short stories, poetry, creative nonfiction and digital reproductions of visual art. Parnassus, named after a mountain in Greece (legendary home of the nine muses) starts production in the fall, as campus members are invited to take part in the competition to be published there. For the 2012 Parnassus edition, the journal offered a new challenge: community members were invited to participate. The invitation was printed in a fall edition of SEG-way News, and I know of at least one community member who accepted this challenge.

The full publication will be publically available on Wednesday, Feb. 29, so I do not have a full list of participants at this time. How do I know of a community member who entered her works? You see, that person was me. A TU alumnus who currently resides in Upland, I decided to take advantage of this opportunity. First of all, I was able to be a part of a creative writing class at Taylor last spring, and as I have worked to further develop my writing, I decided to enter two of the poems I wrote while in the class. The second reason I wished to enter had more to do with persistence. When I was a student in the early 90’s, I entered this competition. And I never made “the cut.” I’m sure my pieces were quite deserving of the recycling bin, but this second chance made me smile. Why not?

Of my two pieces, the one that was accepted for publication was rather ironic. Its heart was planted not when I was writing or reading, but when I taught middle school life science, before we moved back to Upland. One activity I completed with my students was a study of plant growth, with measurement of stems and roots over time. I would teach students that “tropisms” were the forces that pulled roots down, that trained stems up… and there were such amazing parts of the seed’s potential. This study further opened for me the image of God’s power and love, and though I couldn’t verbalize this in a public school setting, I loved exploring the miracles of life with my sixth graders. Fifteen years after the middle school classroom seed project, the poem “Tropisms” grew.

Aside from a few faculty, I may be the only journal participant born more than forty years ago. I look forward to joining the English department members on February 29, though, as a proud Upland community member, and I hope to see others there also.
I found out that one other community member has a visual art piece that will be a part of the magazine – hooray! I’ll go ahead and place the poem here, so friends from other places can see it, too. The SEG-way asked if they could print the poem in this Friday’s edition of the weekly paper also. So 20 years or so after my first Parnassus rejection, here you go:

By Angela Knight

Diminutive as a speck of dust, the black seed glistens on my palm.
This onyx-tinged grain holds promise; it encapsulates life.

They say that if I bury this bit into the soil, a stem will soon point upward as roots burrow into the dirt.
“Magic?” I ask.
“No – science,” they say. “Tropisms: stems go up, roots come down. That’s just how it is.”
“But why? How do they know? Where do tropisms come from?”

As I ponder, I hear a silent reply:
“It is I who created the constellations, the oceans, the peaks, the valleys, the beating hearts, the seeds.
And I AM.”

So with awe more expansive than the waters of the world, I unite this tiny beacon of hope with the earth. Rains come: geotropisms tug down, phototropisms pull up, and the Creator smiles.
It is good.