I can still remember when Ethelbert Miller came to Marymount last year to give a poetry reading. It was right before Christmas break with the air crisp and final exams imminent. I was exhausted when I arrived at Ethelbert’s reading but found myself sitting in the audience transfixed by the music of his voice and the words he blended together so masterfully. After the reading, I began communicating regularly with Ethelbert via phone calls and e-mails. Our exchanges were always filled with my questions and news of school while he replied with encouragement, advice, and updates on various publications, readings, and conferences. I had been drawn to Ethelbert’s poetry because his work reflected a rare sensitivity and command of word and sound. It was only after I came to know Ethelbert as a person that I realized he is one of the most genuinely compassionate and caring individuals that I have ever met. How blessed we are when our personal heroes can be admired for what they do and who they are.
Ethelbert contacted me just as last spring semester was ending, I was already thrilled at the prospects of a summer that promised no late nights of studying and finger calluses from writing thesis papers.
I became more excited when I received Ethelbert’s e-mail offering me the opportunity to help edit his upcoming memoir The Fifth Inning. He sent me the manuscript and I set off to work. I spent the next two months scrutinizing the text for spelling and grammatical errors and pointing out passages that I found compelling or, in some cases, needing a little more work. I stayed in contact with Ethelbert during this process, but there was nothing more satisfying than when we met after I had completed the project. Handing Ethelbert my copy of the marked-up manuscript, I felt proud of the work that I had done and honored that he had believed in my abilities and valued my feedback. On the drive home that day, I held the steering wheel in my hands and smiled. It is a wonderful feeling to have when you are surrounded by a community of artists, mentors, and teachers that share and support your passion. Working with such a gifted poet and kind-hearted person as Ethelbert reaffirms my own decision to pursue a writing career; I am doing what I was meant to do.