'Til Next Time #NatPoMo!

I totally forgot yesterday was National Poem in Your Pocket Day. I feel remiss as a poet that I somehow missed the industry-sanctioned accosting of strangers on the street with verse (which is indeed part of the goal of the day). More than that, as a teacher of poetry it saddens me I did not make accosting strangers on the street with the gift of poetry mandatory and a significant part of my poetry students’ grade.

Sigh. Next year . . .

What I do have to celebrate this, the last day of National Poetry Month (that was yesterday), is a little reflection on all the extra poet-y stuff I did throughout April. Of which there are three main things.

If you’ve seen me (in person or in picture), you’ve might’ve seen a glimpse of the tattoos on my arms, or maybe the one at the base of my neck that occasionally peaks out the top of shirt collars. They are modest, but intensely meaningful. I actually really love the process of getting tattooed. Some hurt more than others (and more than I expected), but I like, while laying in bed the night before, to imagine the gun and the ink, to conjure the pain, and the peace with which I will meet it. The process is a distillation of so many choices and events in my life: I know it might like hurt like hell, but I’m going to do it anyway, mindfully, and trust the results will be worth it.

That being said, the opportunity to join the ranks of so many colorful and amazing poets was just shy of the dream I had when I first read Dorothy Parker’s Elbow: Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos (the dream being that I would be in a similar collection, also published by Kim Addonizio, and that she and I would get matching poetry tattoos and do readings together and possibly solve crimes)

A kickass Dorothy Parker quote

  • April 8th – 11th at AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference

This is the end-all, be-all of writing conferences. The big one. A regular who’s-who of writers (I once helped Amy Tan find the room she was presenting in & stared awkwardly at Richard Blanco as we passed on the escalators). I was honored to be invited to participate in two off-site readings, one the 2nd birthday of the amazing anthology, Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence. It was a powerful evening of strength in vulnerability.

The other, a joint affair with Spooky Girlfriend Press, The Broiler Journal, & Jeopardy Magazine. It was a lot of fun to hear the diversity of styles and meet the editors of the presses and journals represented. I even got to re-connect with someone I worked with at BSU when he was a lowly undergrad. Now Nate Logan is a breath away from being a PhD and runs a well-respected press (so proud!).

And not only did I participate, but I also attended poetry panels, one in particular was called “B Words: A Celebration of Bold, Bossy, Bitchy, Ballsy Women Poets and the Body Politic with Julie Kane, Jan Beatty, Laura Madeline Wiseman, and Grace Bauer – all the kind of writers I want to be like when I grow up, talking about other women writers they respect. I also got to see Rita Dove, Carol Muske-Dukes, & Sophie Cabot Black sing canonical poems to the tunes of doo-wop songs like “Dream Lover.” It was surreal and adorable, reminding me that poetry is as fun as it is heavy. I also met and had a conversation with Verónica Reyes whose book Chopper! Chopper! Poetry from Bordered Lives I’ve been considering for the queer writers of color class I’ve been working on. She was incredibly cool and even bought a copy of my chapbook, right there at the Ren Hen Press table where she was signing books.

Seriously, I could write a whole post just on what I saw and who I saw at that conference. And maybe I will . . . I mean, it’s my blog and you’re not the boss of me. So whatever.

I love trees. Seriously, I even dressed like a tree for Halloween one year.

You can read a little about my love of trees and how they have influenced my life professionally and otherwise at this amazing little Tumblr I was alerted to by the realm of the interwebs. It makes me so happy that it even exists, and then to be given the opportunity to participate with it was all the better. I combed through all the other poets, their pictures, interviews, and poems. In the media, on the street people talk about trees sort of generally; usually, something about them being good & we should all like because they help us breath and not burn up from the sun, but it was great seeing the more pointed ways those writers talked about their relationship with our fine leafy friends.

Though that's the last of my three main April activities, I feel like there are at least a handful of others I could mention, one being that yesterday was the last day in one of my poetry literature classes and the students (who did not sign up to write poetry!) all bravely shared two of the imitation poems I assigned them to write. Basically, I asked nursing students, engineers, chemistry majors, etc. to do an in-class poetry reading where we sat in a circle like good little hippies. There was clapping and snapping (I had to admit that I am terrible at snapping. It’s a serious problem - so uncool at slams). I was struck by how seriously they approached their poems and how raw some of the subject matter was and how attentive they were to each other’s work. Those are the days when I really can’t believe this is my job. Poetry is a bridge and I am eternally grateful for all the experiences it has opened up for me.

So, I may not have jumped on a table at the local Starbucks (yes, *the,* there's only one here), whipped a poem from my pants pocket and regailed the patrons with something from The Fact of a Doorframe, but I did broaden my poetry circle and share my enthusiasm, which, in the end, is what I think this month is all about.

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“Swearing was invented as a compromise between running away and fighting.” 

― Peter Finley Dunne

 

 

“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.” 
― Charles Bukowski

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