Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

May 19, 2013

Terry Wooten: One poem leads to another — and friendship

I was watching my own kids ride a miniature tilt-a-whirl, when I heard this old man yell, “MIMI SIT DOWN!” I looked around to see who Mimi was, and there was this little carney girl slouched on a plastic chair on a merry-go-round. Every now and then she would stand up and try to keep her balance. She seemed quite neglected and bored.

The next morning I got up and wrote Mimi in five minutes. That doesn’t happen very often.

Every poem has a story behind it.

Sometimes a poem can lead to another poem, or in the case of Mimi, also a friendship.

I first met Kate Lauren Heinrich when she was in fifth grade. She’d turned my Mimi poem into a Motown song in anticipation of my visit to her elementary school in Saginaw Township. While I was there, she performed it for me.

The next summer, Kate and her mother visited my Stone Circle.

Kate wanted to be a writer like me. She didn’t make it. She was only in this world until seventh grade, but her short life was a magical time, until the end.

Kate Lauren Heinrich was not a neglected little girl like Mimi. She just had some really bad luck.

On this upcoming Memorial Day weekend her family and friends will be remembering “Kate the Great,” as they call her.

When I work in Saginaw I sometimes visit Kate’s grave in Roselawn Memorial Gardens. She would now be 27.

I often visit cemeteries when I’m on the road. They’re quiet and peaceful places away from the pedestrian unfriendly environment in which most modern hotels are situated.

I shy away from graveyards on Memorial Day weekends. I’m more comfortable alone with the muse.

During a week-long residency in Saginaw, I hunted up Michigan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Theodore Roethke’s grave in Oakwood Cemetery.

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