Monday, September 1, 2008

A bridge for a fish

It's been a weird and busy summer.

Since I last updated this blog, I've attended two writing workshops (the Tinker Mountain Writers' Workshop and the second week of Naropa University's summer writing program). (The bell in the photo is on the Naropa campus.) Both were valuable creative experiences, albeit in different ways. (I don't know how many writers would find them equally useful; you're probably best off with one or the other.)

Naropa, in particular, took me out of my comfort zone. I was surrounded by people whose aesthetics were generally different from mine. The Beat goes on, for sure, at Naropa, and I sometimes felt like people didn't get what I was doing. But that was OK; they were supportive of my doing it. I had a marvelous workshop with Elizabeth Robinson, called "Mystic Speech." Because it was interdisciplinary, I didn't feel so weird about my poetry being different from my classmates'; it opened me up to less strict ideas of what constitutes poetry. Elizabeth...I really feel changed for having known her, even for that brief time. She was one of the people whose perspectives seemed closest to mine, allowing me then to stretch my vision beyond my own aesthetic homeland.

Tinker Mountain--I want to go back again and again. I have a complicated relationship with the Roanoke, Virginia, area. My mother's family is from there.

[Damn. I'm blogging. Next thing you know, I'll be telling you about my colonoscopy or something. Anyway...]

Without getting too detailed about it, I've always felt like a fish out of water down there. So going to a literary gathering in those same mountains, running up against that accent and hearing familiar place names--and even being able to run out to my beloved Hollins Goodwill, visit Aunt Sarah in New Castle, and take Aunt Thelma out for a little nip at the ABC store--integrated parts of me--or, using the analogy I used with Elizabeth Robinson at Naropa, helped me find a bridge. I am now a fish with a bridge.

There aren't a lot of poets at Tinker Mountain. The ones who are there tend to be pretty serious and somewhat clannish--it's that ecstasy of being with people who will talk about Ted Kooser for an hour and a half, or whatever....I was somewhat under-read for these folks, to be sure. I don't read as much poetry as I should. Because it's got that "should" stamped on it, like a pharmacist's label, I tend to shy away except when I come across it by happenstance.

These were wonderful people, wonderful poets. Mostly women, mostly a bit older than me. I felt so happy, so wonderful, so right there. That said, I think Naropa ended up feeding my creativity more while I was actually there; the creative rewards of Tinker Mountain came later.

Which brings me to why I'm here now. In June, just before embarking on these two workshops, I started a full-time job for the first time in 11 years. By August, I'd quit, for a lot of reasons I won't go into here.

It got me realizing how much I like the trade in which I've had most of my work experience--editing--and how healthy it is for me to work with a structured schedule. At the same time, I don't think I've spent two less introspective, creative months in my adult life, or certainly not since I rededicated myself to poetry. There was the time I scribbled an angry little verse on a menu from my purse while waiting for the Red Line train. And damn, did that feel good. I was upset about something, right on the precipice of depression, when the poetry kicked in.

I need to get serious about this stuff again. I might be starting another full-time job at the end of this month. So I figured I should maybe take September as another poem-a-day month.

I have to start later today. I have some trepidation about this endeavor. I'd go right at it right now if i didn't have to move the laundry to the dryer and check the marinating chicken.

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