Saturday, January 25, 2020

Craft Talks at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival

Each year, I have plans for attending the Palm Beach Poetry Festival (except for the one year that I forgot that it was happening at all).  Each year, I make a schedule of the events I will attend:  poetry readings, craft lectures, interviews, so much to choose from!  Each year, I adjust the schedule due to my tiredness.

I read back through my blog posts to determine the last year that I actually attended:   2014.  Let me not get lost in the self-flagellation that can come from missing events.  I moved hundreds of miles down here on a quest to have more cultural events, and I'm too tired from working to afford to live here to go to them, and the thought of the traffic overwhelms me too.

This year, I wanted to go to the Joy Harjo events, but my weariness got the better of me.  If I hadn't been gone last week, perhaps I wouldn't have been so tired.  I did manage to get to the festival yesterday.  I really wanted to go to Maggie Smith's craft lecture, which was at 2:00.  That idea seemed manageable.

I met a friend for a wonderful lunch at an Italian restaurant.  We even had a glass of wine, since we didn't have to worry about driving.  And then I went over to the theatre.

Maggie Smith talked about embracing brokenness and error in poems.  She talked about the kintsugi method of ceramics, where cracks and even broken pieces are filled in with metallic lacquer.  She talked about ways to use this technique in poetry through the things we mistype, the spelling errors, the things we hear wrong, and all the other ways we should embrace our mistakes.  If we're open to our imperfections, the poems may take us to surprising places that a rigid poet would never discover.

My favorite quote of hers:  "I don't got to poetry for comfort, as a reader or a writer, but to be changed."

Her craft lecture was paired with Adrian Matejka, who talked about persona poetry and issues of history, culture and appropriation.  I wasn't familiar with his work, but he was a dynamic, engaging speaker, and I enjoyed the topic.  How interesting to be talking about these issues during a week when the nation has been talking about these issues in the latest Oprah book pick, American Dirt.

I got back on the road by 3:45, and I was astonished by the traffic:  lots of stop and go traffic--and then we'd zoom along, and then almost come crashing to stop and go traffic again--I find that kind most maddening.

I had thought I might spend the evening writing or grading or doing something while my spouse was teaching his class.  Instead, I watched Bohemian Rhapsody.  I loved the first part of the movie, when the band is forming.  The end, the descent into drugs and other bad decisions, not so much.  I like a redemption arc as much as the next person, but the last chunk of the movie was so predictable.  I'm glad I checked it out of the library--no cost but lost time. 

Of course, if I hadn't watched the movie, I'd have probably been sleeping by 7:15--a better use of time?  Hard to say.

It was a satisfying day--good to be reminded of the creative life I hope to be having, where I have enough rough drafts that I need to embrace the mistakes along with the drafts that turned out the way I envisioned, the life where I have more source material than just me, and I need to be aware of how I'm using that source material.

1 comment:

Christine Swint said...

Your description of Maggie Smith’s craft talk is a great summary! I attended the Palm Beach Poetry Festival this year too, and interestingly, the last time I was there was in 2014. I live in ATL and drove down, which was an exhausting mistake. I’m going to write a bit abut my experience this year on my blog.