As students and faculty at Utah State University, we often get the chance to meet new people and make great friends. After growing close to these people, it’s hard to see them leave. Anne Shifrer and Maria Melendez are two of those people for me.
I remember the first assignment I handed in to Anne Shifrer. I was supposed to write an analysis of a poem by Seamus Heaney, and somehow I got confused; instead, I wrote a personal narrative tied in with his poetry. Boy, I was proud of that paper! However, Anne had a wide grin on her face when she handed the paper back to me. She said to the class, “Wow, there were some amazing papers! Brian Cook wrote a beautiful personal narrative . It didn’t fit the assignment description, so I couldn’t give him an ‘A.’ But it was beautiful.” Everyone laughed, including myself. In any other class, I would have ruminated on that grade, but I just couldn’t be upset about this grade; even if I completely missed the point of the assignment, she helped me see that I had potential.
Maria Melendez seemed to have that same sort of loving criticism — the kind that doesn’t burn, but lifts. Every time I submitted a poem in that class, she told me I needed more imagery. My way of writing poetry changed from a cryptic to an imagistic nature. I learned that imagery was not to hide what I wanted to say but, rather, to find a way to express the inexpressible.
We were fortunate to have both of these wonderful poets join us at Helicon West on March 24, 2011.