Anybody else hear Donna Summer when they read that title? Just me?
A poem of mine came up in the rotation today for Northern Community Radio’s “The Beat” poetry feature. This particular poem, “Waitress,” is one of those rare poems that came out fully-formed, in one quick rush, and that was never revised. I’ve been chasing that experience of divine inspiration ever since!
I actually wrote it just a few minutes before leaving to work a waitressing shift, while wearing my goofy mexican-restaurant uniform of a flounced and lace-trimmed bright red dress. I was getting ready for work, thinking about the fact that mine is a restaurant job unlike any other, and that people who haven’t worked there don’t really get it, so I set out to write down what I love about the job. I do love it. I know it seems strange to people that I’m still waitressing, 25 years into my “real” career(s) of teaching and writing, but there’s just something about it. Maybe the poem will explain.
This has been one of my most successful poems, in the outside-world sense, with publication in what I consider a high-level, very competitive joural (CALYX). It is also the first poem I was ever paid for (by Lake Country Journal, where it ran alongside a review of the restaurant), and the first I was ever paid for the right to reprint (in an anthology called Encounters published by the Unitarian Universalists). While poetry is not a mercenary pursuit by any means, there is some validation in getting paid. Needless to say, this one feels very close to my heart. I’m happy that it’s not a heartbreak poem. It feels good to have a poem that is positive and not a lament be the one that has found some success (though I wouldn’t turn down success for a lament, either). I say: more of that, please!