Last weekend, I was exhausted from Lit Fest week. It’s my favorite week of the school year here, but it requires endless running to get everything done. That meant this was a week of playing catch-up: catching up on cleaning, reading, homework, exercise, grading and rest. Of course you can’t really catch up on all of those things in one week. Guess which one had to go? If you guessed “rest,” you guessed correctly.
Last week I also signed on to take part in an ekphrastic (inspired by art) poetry reading. I was supposed to look at an art exhibit centered on mothers in prison, Interrupted Life. Because of all the catching-up, I didn’t make it to the gallery until 1 p.m. Friday, with the reading just six hours away.
I was relieved, however, to see another of the poets there, too. Luckily, I found a series of letters that really inspired me. I went home and wrote two poems I really love. They’re so different from the rest of my work, and they’re persona poems. Writing more persona poems (Poems that are clearly from the point of view of a character who is not me) is one of my goals for the year. I called my BVU professor and mentor Nadine to get her opinion, and she made some helpful suggestions.
Before I knew it, it was time to go. As I walked to the coffee shop where the reading was being held, another poem popped into my head, so when I got inside I quickly jotted it down and did a bit of revision while waiting for my turn.
I got to meet the wife and baby of Noah, the other student in my poetry workshop. It’s some ways, it’s annoying that there are only two of us in the workshop right now, but at least Noah is really talented and kind. Also, Christian is auditing the class, so he comes as often as possible. The beauty of there being four of us, including our professor Luisa, is that we all get tons of attention paid to our work every single week. Also, there’s camaraderie beyond what I’ve felt in prior workshops.
I loved the reading. Hearing other peoples’ work is so inspiring. Luisa read a brand new poem she had just shared with Noah and I in class. He and I shared a quick look of “We heard this first!” then settled in to listen again. I got to hear Andrea’s work, Til’s, Noah’s and Dana’s.
Dana was our lone fiction writer of the night, and she helped me look at fiction a new way. It wasn’t the average story, a series of events from beginning to end. Rather, it was an internal monologue with a harried assistant trying to decide whether or not to spit in her boss’ Starbucks. A-ha! I thought. Fiction can do that. Her story was a good reminder and made fiction a little less intimidating.
When I it was my turn to read my poems, I linked into the audience, the way I used to when I acted. It was great. I could feel them hang on my words, and they were with me for every emotion in the poems. People came up to compliment me. Noah’s eyes were wide: “You need to read like that in workshop. Why don’t you always read like that?” Because workshop is not theater. With most of my poems, I’m not playing a character…or at least not one different enough from me to trigger a noticeable change.
Sigh. I miss acting. I need to join a community theater…one that magically doesn’t practice at when I have evening classes…or infringe on the time I need to teach, plan, grade and do my homework. Maybe writing more persona poems will give me a different way to play at being someone else.
P.S. I got home and realized I got pictures of everyone but me reading, so I used the bathroom mirror to snap these. You can’t see what I looked like during the reading, but this is what I looked like that day.