VerseDay: Poetry really does matter

Posted on February 29, 2008


FrostOn Wednesday, I “officially” became a journalist. Through the encouragement of several of my fellow Scrogues here, and my work on a number of issues that I’ve published here, I was accepted for membership by the Society of Environmental Journalists and received notice of my acceptance Wednesday.

It’s an absolutely wild feeling, a strange combination of elation and apprehension. It’s my first real step toward following my passion – writing – and if that step was toward journalism instead of fiction, then that means my need to write has become more encompassing than I anticipated a few years ago. My blogging, combined with finally self-publishing my first “short” story in December, makes me feel like I’m actually making progress toward being an honest-to-the-gods writer. My utter lack of progress on this goal for many years had bothered me a great deal.

But at the same time, I have no professional training as a journalist – I’m trained as an electrical engineer. I’ve never worked for a news outlet as a journalist, and as valuable as I consider my work here at S&R, it’s never really felt like a “real” journalism endeavor as I expect working for a newspaper, magazine, or broadcast media outlet might. At this point it’s been 17 years since I last took a writing class and all of my recent self-education has been in creating plotlines, characters, and describing settings for speculative fiction, not fact and science-based journalism or opinion writing. So what the hell do I think I’m doing applying for membership in a journalism organization?

Even after I submitted the application, I wasn’t convinced that it was the right thing to do. But then this comic strip combined in some dusty recess of my mind with one of the more famous works of Robert Frost, a poem that I’ve been drawn to since I was in high school.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I cannot say with any certainty that I’ve started down my own road less traveled, feeling as I do that I’ve got one foot on each and knowing that my family cannot afford to have me resign my engineering position in order to naively pursue a starving writer career. But somehow the power of this poem has given me the strength to continue on with both as best I can.

And maybe I’ll find, somewhere ages and ages hence, that my combined engineering/writer career has become my own road less traveled by.

Thanks to all my fellow Scrogues who have encouraged me to write and, ultimately, to apply to the SEJ. All of you have offered direct and indirect encouragement over the last year, and that has helped me in ways that you may never realize and that I can probably never properly explain.

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