Shame made me a writer. The sheer feeling of humiliation.
I was nine years old, at school and the teacher –a very frightful and sadistic woman- told us to write a poem of some animal, say maybe about a squirrel. I was terrified. I was a city-girl. I remembered seeing some squirrels way back, but really, squirrels wasn’t that common on my home street.
My other reason to be aghast was that I couldn’t write a poem! I could write -that I had learned in school, but a poem! Difficult! Impossible! About a squirrel! No can do!
Luckily my friend came to rescue. She was already ten years of age and had some more experience with school that required horrible tasks to be done by pupils. She told me that she knew a poem about a squirrel and that the poem wasn’t that bad either. She believed that the poem was so old, that the teacher wouldn’t surely know it.
I grasped with gratitude to the words my friend uttered and wrote the poem in my most beautiful handwriting (the teacher was very strict about handwriting, it had to be perfect). The poem wasn’t that good in my opinion and there were few words I didn’t understand at all, but I didn’t let it bother me. Home work had to be done.
After some days the teacher read out loud the imaginative poems by us pupils. I waited eagerly to hear my poem, well…the poem I had written myself on the paper. The teacher commented on some poems I didn’t find so appealing, she complimented them and I felt the needles on my skin. Why didn’t she read my poem? Why didn’t she say something about my writing? The poem wasn’t that lousy.
After the lesson, the teacher asked me to stay in the class while other pupils rushed out to freedom. She wanted to have a word with me.
-This poem of yours…did you write it yourself, SusuPetal?
-Yes (this was said without hesitation).
-Are you sure?
-Yes… (a small uncertainty crept into my shivering voice).
-Well, I don’t believe you.
-This is a well-known poem.
-? (my friend swore that the poem was so old nobody would remember it!!!!)
-By a well-known writer.
-… (oh my god, I’ve been caught!)
-And I presume you don’t know the writer or the poem? Otherwise you wouldn’t have stolen the poem?
I was hot. I was red. I wanted to faint and vanish, but couldn’t move my legs. I wasn’t able to do anything else than to stand there and listen to the teacher who told me that I had copied the poem of the Finnish national writer Aleksis Kivi.
After that humiliation I knew that I had no other choice than to write my own stuff.