Last night's reading was a fabulous experience. Before the reading, I met the organizer, Barbra Nightingale, and one of the other poets, Mia Leonin, for dinner. I decided to steer clear of wine and heavy food, since I didn't want to risk feeling sleepy later, so I had a big salad (and spent the rest of the night worrying that I'd have a speck of greenery in my teeth and not realize it, even though I checked and doublechecked). We had great conversation about poetry and balancing one's life as a poet, a teacher, and a family member.
Then we headed over to Broward College, where poet Michael Cleary was waiting for us. The Hannah Kahn Poetry people really know how to put on a reading: great refreshments, great publicity, great mood.
We attracted a good crowd, which was a pleasant surprise. Down here, the last two weeks have left us saturated with reading events, because of the Miami Book Fair, so I worried that people might be too exhausted to attend. A lot of my work colleagues made the trek to a different campus, but the biggest surprise was the amount of students. Granted, I suspect that most of them attended because they got extra credit, but they were attentive and took notes (again, I suspect they didn't get extra credit without some kind of write up, but I appreciated their attention).
Afterwards, we mingled and signed books and chatted. One young student came up and asked if she could have her picture made with me because she had enjoyed my poems--wow! No one has ever asked for that before. We also had a student selling the books, which was unusual for me. Usually, my dear, sweet husband takes care of that.
Last night was another one of those satisfying nights when I said to myself, "Wow, this evening matches the vision I had for myself when I thought of being a poet."
I tend to think of being a poet as akin to being an opera singer: my art is an acquired taste that I don't expect most people to have or want to acquire. So I'm doubly pleased when I see a room of people new to poetry who might have a taste of poems they would like. Having a reading with 3 poets seems a perfect set up to me: we had a variety of poetry and a variety of reading styles.
Even within our individual readings, we had variety. Poet Mia Leonin read both poems and a piece of her memoir. I read from my modern work life series and also from my chapbook. I think I planned that right. The work life poems can be dark, and I worried about reading them with so many of my work colleagues there, who might assume I'm deeply unhappy. Plus, there were lots of students, and I don't want to be the one who discourages them. Then I read from my chapbook, where the poems are more hopeful, and I read some of the more whimsical ones. I ended with "Rainy Redemption," one of the more hopeful poems, and I'm posting it below, in case you need a shot of hope into your November day:
She told us the X-ray showed a black
spot on her lung. We assumed the cancer harbored
in her breast had set on an odyssey
for new land, and when we didn’t see her
again, we assumed the worst.
Three years later, the flowers bloomed in their annual
tribute to spring, and I saw
her in a parking lot. At first, I thought I saw a ghost, but I held her fleshly
form, still sapling-thin, and knew she had returned,
Lazarus-like, to live among us again.
Our culture focuses on the lost, the missing
in action, but we forget the world commits
to resurrection and reunion. The twig of a tree
sends sap to its tips, the crispy lawn returns
to a life filled with chlorophyll, muscles
wait for the mind to remember what they never forgot,
each generation resurrects the music of its elders,
babies look towards the sky for the familiar
face of the missing parent, history holds
us in its hands and offers rainy redemption.
Loving Lilly Ledbetter
2 hours ago