Connecting With Creativity –
The Ellie Poem

There is a poem that’s affectionately known as “the Ellie poem” in writing classes around the world. Although I have never found an accurate and detailed description of how this poem came about, I can say that the original ‘Ellie’ was written by a woman named Eleanor Wait in 1967. It was titled: “Ellie: An Inventory of Being.” In the fumbling eloquence of young womanhood she shares her ideas about exactly who she is. She writes it for herself, listing dreams alongside fleeting thoughts. In my opinion, everyone should try to compose their own “Ellie” at least once in their lives.


Ellie Found!

Case closed. I found “Ellie”. (Actually, she found me.) Yesterday [in 2005] I received the following email:

“Dear Ami,
Well, you’ve found me! I’m the author of Ellie: An Inventory of Being. It won first prize in Whit Burnett’s STORY MAGAZINE poetry competition and was published in STORY: THE YEARBOOK OF DISCOVERY 1968. I had pretty much forgotten about it … although I was thrilled at the time to be published and, especially, to have the poem praised by Marianne Moore, who judged the contest.

As I anticipated in the poem, after college I stopped using the name “Eleanor” or “Ellie” and became “Lea,” and, as Lea Wait, I’ve lived the past 35 years and published adult mysteries, historical novels for children, and nonfiction about my experiences as the single adoptive parent of four Asian daughters.

So — your mystery has been solved. And how thrilled I am that anyone actually has read the little poem I scribbled out when I was a junior in
college!”

It was my great pleasure to inform Lea that her poem has been used as a source of inspiration by creative writing classes all over the world. Please visit her web page to find out more about her life and her writing!
http://www.leawait.com


Ellie: An Inventory of Being

I am Ellie.
I am twenty years old.
I am a student, but never a co-ed.
A girl, afraid to be a woman.

If I stand very tall I am 65 inches high.
I have blue eyes streaked with gray
And tarnished brown hair
That gets in them.

Sometimes I wear it in a bun
And I am Emily Dickinson or Louisa Alcott
Or in pigtails and play hopscotch
In front of Mellon Institute.
Or let it just hang,
And run down Chapel Hill anyway.

I am a student, and a lady, and a child;
Almost a woman, but always a girl.

I love rare steak and burnt potato chips.

I am older than Neenie,
Younger than Lea’
I love the smell of Arpege and mud flats.
I drink tea with lemon and sugar with coffee.
Daffodils laugh, but blue-bells depress me.
I’m afraid of trolls.

I like raisins with oatmeal, and in the sun.
I work the best under pressure.
I like shiny fingernails and jazz, but
I hate Altman’s and mini-skirts.
I like small rooms lined with book, and braided rugs, and
Pillows, because I like to sit on the floor.

I like fountain pens and brown notebooks and blue ink and
I don’t believe in god, but I don’t tell
Anyone anymore,
And my children will go to church,
Because I love Christmas.

I love pearls.
I like garnets better than rubies,
And topaz more than diamonds.
But someday I want a diamond,
And a gold band
Forever.

But not just now.

Someday I want a girl named Jeannie and a
Boy named Mike –
But they’ll have to wait,
Because I want to be a person first.

Subject to change.

I believe that women are more than equal,
But keep quiet about it.
I know that there are 435 members of the House of Representatives
But I don’t understand why more of them
Aren’t Negroes and women.

Rachel Carson and Margaret Chase Smith
Were my high school ideals.
Now I’d add (quietly) Jean Kerr.

I’m an anti-feminist.
I love to travel alone.

I’m crazy about noodles and tuna fish
And pizza with pepperoni and Jello.
I hate clutter unless it’s books.

I love cozy slippers and lacy underwear
And going barefoot in the mud.
I make spaghetti in a popcorn popper, and
Always add paprika.
I am in love with chipmunks, pigeons, and
4 x 6 envelopes.
I read Dickens and Ferlinghetti.

I love wind and rain and snowmen,
And Baroque music and Barbara Streisand,
Even if she’s trite.
And I don’t like earrings or hairspray
Or soap operas and I adore commercials.

I love fireplaces with real fires,
And front porches with creaky swings
And noisy typewriters.

I like strawberry milkshakes and frosted lipsticks.
I’d like to be cultured, but love WABC
And I daydream at the symphony.

I love to get dressed up,
But I don’t waste time doing it.
I hate alarm clocks and television sets
But I couldn’t live without them.

I’d rather walk than ride
But I’ll drive anywhere.
I’m honest to a proudly-self conscious fault,
And I’m corrupt to a deeper meaning.
I wish sex were leagal –
But I went through a phase
Of wishing human sacrifice were too.

I don’t want to grow up
But I’m scared to stay young.

I eat too much, sometimes,
And talk too much, often,
And wish I could sleep too much, always.

If the world were a stage
I’d feel more comfortable in it.

I’m a loner, but I love being lonely.
I’m a conformist, except when I think.
I have horrible nightmares, and wild daydreams,
And I couldn’t live without either.

I spend too much money on velvet hair ribbons
And funny cards and books of plays.
Hamlet and Antigone are my ideals, but
Creon and I are one.

I think too fast.
I hate grease paint, but I love crowds.

I love Degas, but I don’t think I like
Horses or ballet.
I’ve always wanted to be the first woman president,
And a marine biologist,
And literary lioness,
And an archaeologist
But I’m allergic to dust.

I don’t want anyone to understand me,
But people think they do
And they’re probably right.

If I were rich the first place I’d go
Would be Scotland.
The second would be Stratford
And the third would be Disneyland.

I need someone to need me
Because then I need them too.
I’m a deadly realist,
But I pretend to be idealistic.
I used to think there was no such thing as love,
Now I’m not so sure.

I never want to go to the moon,
But I’d love to see penguins.
I’ve always felt that horses
Were incomplete zebras.

I’m funny
But most of the time it’s intentional.

I get migraine headaches.

I either love or hate October and March;
I haven’t decided yet.
I like men who know that
Women are people too,
And I hate crew cuts and red hair.

I’m a drama major because there are only five of us.
I support the minority, but
If I were Jewish, I’d be a conservative.
If I were a Democrat, I’d be liberal.
I’m in favour of staying in Viet Nam
But I hate war.

I may be in love
And it scares me,
But he doesn’t.

I love to see the sunrise,
But I hate to get up in the morning.
I’m perennially frustrated
Because I can’t know everything,
And I’m annually concerned about self.

My name is Ellie
And this is 1967.

-Eleanor Wait


My new novel, The Virgin Cure, is due out in Canadian stores October 25, 2011. Click here for more info.