It’s my friend’s birthday today and I wanted to share some tales of our friendship.
A year ago I emailed someone I had never met, and only communicated with a handful of times on social media in the sense that I replied to some of her tweets.
I’d read her website and some of her poetry, listened to some of her recordings and I had ordered her first book off the internet. I thought that this person was someone who spoke to me with her poetry and so I took a punt and dropped her a line, and a poem.
I had this poem you see, well I had a lot, but I had this one that I thought was the bees knees and would undoubtedly impress this published poet so much that at best she would snap her own pen in a rage at seeing such a burgeoning talent arising from across the Atlantic, and at worst she would call all of poetry publishing to a halt because…she’d read my poem and knew that nothing else could ever matter.
We’ve all written that poem I think, the one we have supreme confidence in, that little pot of gold that we stumble across and feel that we’ve cracked it.
I sent off my poem to award-winning poet (and total stranger who didn’t need to reply) Loren Kleinman, with an introductory note and asked if she would be kind enough to offer me some feedback. I expected a few tweaks, a comma moved or a word changed.
Unbeknown to me at the time of my initial email, Loren’s birthday turned out to be on the 22 July 2013 (and as I presume it’s that every year), meaning that when she should have been celebrating her birthday – she was reading my poem.
A few days later I received an email…a long email…with so much red ink in it that I think there must have been a North American shortage of red ink – but at the end of the email she said this: “You also have the seeds of some great poetry…Good work! Keep going and write on!”
Over the weeks that followed we exchanged emails and I hung on her every word, reading what she recommended and exploring new writing techniques. I then sent a few more poems, and a few more and then she told me to send my manuscript and she’d edit it.
Since that first and fateful email we have shared many laughs, Loren has been over to the UK on tour, and as well as becoming my editor she has also become my friend.
When Loren arrived in England I went to meet her at her hotel and I was terrified that after a minute or two this person who was so great at communicating on a key board may be as dull as dishwater when it came to a face to face chat. How wrong I was!
One of my favourite days in what has turned out to be a heck of a year for me was spending the day pub crawling (and fish and chip eating) around Brighton with Loren, visiting some of her old uni haunts, before we both performed, me as an open mic support and her as a feature, at a little venue near the sea. That day we talked and talked, gorging on the feast that is life, and it was a truly happy experience.
Throughout the nine month long process to take my poems from rough to publication ready, Loren has been there supporting me and encouraging me and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve sent her a message along the lines of “I’m awful…I should stop”. She has always had the right words to push me back on track though, which is a skill considering just how needy and negative I can be is a skill.
I got the first email from Loren on 24 July 2013, and a year later I am contemplating the upcoming publication of my book, a reading tour of New York (and surrounding areas depending on budget and holiday from work) and I have so much more besides to consider. Many of my achievements this year have come with guidance from Loren, selfless guidance, and it has been much valued.
Loren is a woman of much strength, and she is someone who will carry your burden with you to lighten the load. She treats people with respect, and she helps people to the top and isn’t afraid of not being at the centre of attention, which is a rare thing for a poet.
I’d like to wish my friend Loren a very happy birthday, a wonderful year filled with all that she deserves, and a huge thank you for all that she has done for me over the last year – and I can’t wait to inflict myself on her and Joseph for a few weeks when I go to New York to launch my book next year!
Good friends are hard to come by, but good friends are worth waiting for.