Guest Post: The Accidental Poets by William Greenfield

Some decades ago I unwittingly fathered a baby girl. Through some trick of fate or the magic of genetics, that baby girl helped me develop into something loosely resembling a poet. I say “loosely” because part of me believes that a true poet should be a student of the craft; should read the classic poets of the past, should be familiar with successful contemporary poets. I am not that student. I read Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. You know, good guy-bad guy stuff. Nevertheless, I have been fortunate enough to have been fairly widely published, and my chapbook, Momma’s Boy Gone Bad will soon be out in print thanks to Finishing Line Press.

Anyway, back to that baby girl. Here is our story. I was attending the State University of New York at Plattsburgh when my girlfriend told me from some 400 miles back home that she was expecting. What does a young couple barely out of their teens do in a situation like that. Why, they drive down to Dillon, So. Carolina and get hitched. I head back to college as a married man and my new wife goes back to her job at the phone company (her parents took the news much better than mine did).

So, here I am back at school, enjoying my duties as social chairman of a college fraternity, attending many parties, and then it hits me. My life has been laid out before me. All of my life’s choices have been made for me. Her father will get me a job with a state road crew. It didn’t help matters that a former New York State Junior Miss was very interested in me. I was very scared. I don’t believe that my new wife nor I really knew what love was. I look back now and realize how ultimately incompatible we were. The relationship was doomed from the onset. I suspect she knew that as well.

I will never forget the weekend I came home from college and broke the news to my new (pregnant) wife and her parents that I wanted out. As things turned out, the marriage was annulled. My daughter was born while I was probably at a college bar, and she was raised by her mother and grandfather. I had literally no involvement in the upbringing of my daughter. Not until she was an adolescent did we even begin to establish a relationship. Fortunately, we lived relatively close to each other. Still, our contact was limited.

I guess this would be a good time to mention that, while I was attending college, I started to dabble in poetry. I aced the poetry class I took. Part of me sometimes wonders if feeding my head played a part in my success, but that would be very presumptive on my part.

After graduating from college I began a long career with the Federal Government. I had a new life, a new wife, and dabbling in poetry became a thing of the past. The relationship with my daughter continued to be somewhat tenuous. Sometime in the 90’s she left whatever life she had in the suburbs of New York, and she moved to San Francisco.

And then something unusual happened. She began to dabble in poetry; so much so that she began to have her poetry published. She just got better and better. Not too long after that, another unusual thing happened. She and I became daughter and father, albeit from quite a distance. One day I sent her the poems I had written in college, and she gave me ideas and support. She has continued to be a kind of mentor to me, and I would not be the poet I am if it were not for her guidance and support.

So, that’s most of the story. My daughter’s name is Sonia Greenfield (yes, she kept my name in spite of being married). She is a two-time Pushcart Nominee, and her work has appeared in many places, including the 2010 Best American Poetry. Her full length book of Poetry, Boy with a Halo at the Farmer’s Market, won the 2014 Codhill Poetry Award. Her book is very good and everyone should buy it. And while you’re at it, order a copy of mine as well. It ain’t half bad.

William GreenfieldWilliam A. Greenfield grew up some forty miles north of New York City in the small hamlet of Montrose, New York, where he learned how to play baseball, climb trees, and make change at the local supermarket. He first began to write poetry while attending the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. For years after that, his writing became only an occasional dabbling. At the urging of his daughter, he once again delved into the world of poetry in more recent years to the point where it became a regular part of his existence. His poems can be found in numerous journals including The Westchester Review, Carve Magazine, The East Coast Literary Review, and many others. In 2012 he won Storyteller Magazine’s People’s Choice Award. He resides in Sullivan County, New York in the middle of the woods and he likes it there.

William’s poem “Segue” is in Black Fox Issue 12.

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