M.L. Liebler, my second poetry teacher

“I do not come from an intellectual family. (…) There was not poetry read around the dinner table, and they didn’t take me to the library. The point is: If I got into poetry, then it’s accessible to everybody. That’s been my mission since I was a teenager: To try to get people to see that poetry is more important than people think it is.

At work on Friday, I walked into the lounge and saw Mike’s staring up from cover of the arts section of The Detroit Free Press (aka Freep).  I haven’t seen him in years, but he looks the same: white beard, black beret, keen eyes behind dark-framed glasses.

How nostalgic! And serendipidous, considering the rut I’ve been in.

Many moons ago, I decided to leave Cubicle Land and become a teacher. Because I didn’t major in English, I needed to take enough classes to equal a major.  I had entered the certification program at Wayne State University in Detroit, but whenever possible, I saved money by taking classes at the nearby community college and transferring the credits.

So I took M.L. Liebler’s creative writing class for budget reasons – not because of his reputation!

At the time, he was the head of Writers Voice of Detroit and co-host of Vision of Words on public radio. (By circumstance I was a featured guest.) He also dug science fiction and hosting book talks by authors, which is how I had the chance to meet Samuel R. Delany, write of my fave Babel-17.*

But more importantly, Mike opened up a door for me that’s never closed: the door to poetry. As you can tell from the quote (and indeed the entire linked article), he teaches the truth that poetry is for everyone, everywhere.

Therefore, reading the Freep feature reminded me that I must keep writing.

*Why I never talked to Delany and how my unasked question led me to begin writing a novel is a story for another day.