Here’s one from Joyce Evans, who long, long ago was my editor on a weekly newspaper.
On Labor Day weekend in 2001, I was browsing through the poetry section in Schwartz Bookstore and found three collections by a Milwaukee, Wis., poet named Marilyn Taylor. After perusing the table of contents and flipping through the pages, I decided to buy all three collections and spent Saturday, Sunday, and Monday studying the poems. I liked her style and voice. All of this was to prepare me for my poetry course, which started on Tuesday. It was my first class in graduate school, and I didn’t know what to expect from Bill Harrell, the instructor, not to mention the level of difficulty or challenge. Although I had attended undergraduate classes for two years in English and creative writing, nervousness eclipsed the excitement.
On Tuesday morning, I had to take an MRI, which I thought would be over an hour before my 1 p.m. class. That would’ve given me time to drive across town to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, but the MRI took longer. I took the interstate, but it was crowded – as usual. My heart was beating down to my feet by the time I entered Room 426 full of anxiety. The professor was a woman, not Bill Harrell, as listed in the class schedule. I thought I could sneak into class without any disruption.
The professor looked across the room and said, “Are you Joyce Evans-Campbell?” I answered affirmatively and took a seat with thoughts running rampantly, wondering who she was, and how she knew my name, chastising myself for being tardy on the first day.
After class I went up to her desk, apologized and gave an explanation for my tardiness, and she said, “That’s fine. I’m Marilyn Taylor; I love your columns in the Journal Sentinel. I read them all the time.” I thanked her, and she proceeded: “I’m substituting for Bill Harrell who died over the summer.”
I told her that I loved her poetry, and had bought three collections. She complimented me for getting prepared for the class, and we briefly discussed her work. This encounter established an extraordinary first impression, and the two years of study under her went well. That meaningful coincidence opened the door to a deeper relationship and helped me to develop confidence.
Here’s who Joyce is talking about – Wisconsin’s poet laureate! https://www.mlt-poet.com/