My First Mentor
I am an out of work actress, lining up for cattle call auditions in New York City and I am in my mid-twenties. I never get called back. I am selling diet products to people who have already bought them, trying to get more product sold before they realize the stuff doesn’t work. I do this four hours at night, in a large telemarketing call center in mid-town. All of my fellow callers are actors, models, or dancers, and a few recently-divorced wanderers.
I’ve broken up with my gay boyfriend and I am between actor boyfriends. I am living with two gay roommates in Hell’s Kitchen and it is a street filled with gray-skinned whores, shooting up and cursing.
My room is the size of a futon and the loft is where I sleep. I send six poems in to the 92nd Street YMCA with a creative writing class application. For the life of me, I can’t remember why I did it. I've been writing poetry and reading Anna Karenina over and over, am in love with words and hating my life. I'm not pretty enough to be a successful actress.
I am reading Ann Beattie and Richard Ford and Raymond Carver’s poetry and stories. The actors don’t get me. All the great men are gay. Poems keep pouring out, but no agents seem to want me, they are disappointed in me the minute I walk in, and I don’t have the cushion of money to fail.
I’m accepted into the class. A letter arrives which says YOU HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED--CONGRATULATIONS, which is stunning to me. Nothing else has gone well. More thrilling, a private note from author Molly Peacock, the acclaimed poet, memoirist, and then-President of The Poetry Society of America. She offers to tutor me privately because she feels strongly about my voice. She writes that she loves my poems.
I walk around the city feeling authentic. I hate my telemarketing job suddenly and violently. I cry for the fat women who I am selling too much diet product to. I get fired, fall in love with a young man who loves me. He is not gay, and he is a writer, too. I work privately with Molly Peacock and I attend the 92nd Street Y classes taught by the poet Jane Flanders. Molly Peacock and I share strawberries and cream and poems once a month in her flat. She is a gentle, smart editor and a constant source of support.
Ten years later, I name my daughter and only child Molly.