Helen Fox

Author Photo HelenMy earliest writings were letters to my mother from summer camp. She was a great correspondent, so our letters continued on my journey through college, Peace Corps India, a commune in Boston, and the little town of St. Clet, Quebec, where I raised my children. To my chagrin, my mom saved every one of my letters and sent them back to me just before she died, just in case I might want to write about my life one day. That was way too daunting.

But after getting a couple of letters to the editor published in major newspapers and receiving a few encouraging notes from prominent editors, I took up the challenge; I would become a writer! Had I known I would spend the next 15 years trying to get published — first as an author of children’s stories, then as an op-ed personality, and finally, as a mother and teacher–I might have quit right then. But as it turned out, all those years of typing, all that reading and thinking and correspondence with unappreciative editors was not time wasted. By the time I enrolled in graduate school–belatedly–in the 1980s, I had developed my style, my voice, a vague idea of my intended audience, and possibly, my purpose, even though I was still searching for what I wanted to say

Finally, the dam broke. In 1994 I published my first book, Listening to the World (National Council of Teachers of English), followed by When Race Breaks Out, Their Highest Vocation: Social Justice and the Millennial Generation, and Fractured: Race Relations in “Post-Racial” American Life, all published by Peter Lang, Inc., as well as a number of book chapters, edited collections, and articles, mostly about college students, multiculturalism, and the teaching of writing. Now that I’m retired I’ve been trying my hand at poetry. Some of PI writers’ may remember my question to them a few years ago: “What is poetry, anyway?” I had no clue. But they’re answer, “Anything!” gave me the courage to begin to develop my own style and subject matter.

I’ve had a few poems published so far, one about a prisoner condemned to life for a mistake as a teenager (“Court Watch”) that appeared in the Quaker publication, “Friends Journal,” and four poems on a variety of topics (an impoverished Pine Islander, the Calusa Indians, a disgruntled Vietnam vet, and a flight of fancy during meditation), all published in “The Poet’s Touchstone,” the journal of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. I have a bunch of unpublished poems sitting on my computer, some good, some bad, many unfinished. Even though some PI writers didn’t always appreciate poetry (much like I felt before I tried writing it), they’ve helped me tremendously by their authentic reactions and comments. I might put together a chapbook one day. Or keep writing more poems. Or not. Who knows?