Feature > Memoir
Betty Adcock

Betty Adcock

Betty Adcock's sixth collection from LSU Press, Slantwise, appeared in March 2008. Her work has received the Poets' Prize, the North Carolina Medal for Literature, the Texas Institute of Letters Prize, two Pushcart Prizes and several fellowships including a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry. She lives in Raleigh, NC and teaches in the Warren Wilson M.F.A. Program for Writers.

Carolyn Kizer

Advised to do so by a professor, in 1965 I sent my very first submission of poems to The Nation and to Poetry Northwest, then edited by the formidable Carolyn Kizer. I was amazed and thrilled to find acceptances from both journals in my mailbox.

Carolyn took a poem called "At the Fair," choosing it from three I'd sent. She accepted the poem with a lovely note which ended with an admonition I did not much understand at the time but came to understand very well later on.

I think I still have that note, but cannot lay my hands on it just now, so I'll recreate it as I remember. After some kind words about the poems I'd sent, she offered this advice:

"Be very careful of sentiment. When men use it in their poems it is called "heart." When women use it, the work is dismissed as sentimental. Remember this." It was, of course, excellent advice and true.

I came to know Carolyn a little when she lived in Chapel Hill. I'd see her at readings and sometimes parties. She was so very tall, imposing, and so beautiful. Mostly I found her frightening and fascinating. She'd bend down to touch my cheek withers and then say something outrageous on whatever subject was being discussed. I remember her telling a supporter of what one might call narrowly regional poets that "poetry can't be measured by the pound." She was nothing if not memorable.

The poem she took for Poetry Northwest was chosen for the 1966 Borestone Awards Anthology, then a much-respected yearly selection of poems from magazines.

It seems important to add that the great experience of having my first submissions accepted, and one of them included in an awards anthology, did not repeat itself for a long time. It took two years of postage and patience before I had another poem accepted anywhere. Oh, and I stayed careful about sentiment.