I graduated from high school in 1983. I was depressed, closeted, and felt trapped. Mom tried to help. She helped me get a parttime job here and there but the money didn’t last long. I was practically agoraphobic, only going out of the house to the library or bookstore or to wander the town. I remember drifting about the aisles of stores trying to pluck up the courage to ask for an employment application.
Zara connected me to a poet who was running a poetry workshop in Santa Rosa. I didn’t know anything about Paul Mariah. But I needed company and Paul seemed to enjoy my writing. Though he lived near the town of Sonoma, Paul led the workshop at the home of another older poet, Helen Luster. There were typically five or six poets each time. I didn’t have a car and Mom wasn’t going to teach me to drive until I could pay the insurance, so Mom always came to the workshops, too. If she hadn’t would Paul have told me he was gay and had founded a press to publish gay writers? I don’t know. It sure seems like a missed opportunity. I’m not wishing he’d published me (I don’t think he was still running ManRoot) so much as wishing … something.
Paul would start the evening by reading poems by a famous poet – though usually not one I’d heard of. At first the workshop was the standard bring-a-poem-to-critique format but I held out for writing exercises. Man, I gotta write!