I may have overindulged this weekend. It was like restaurant hopping along a string of gourmet cantinas (the Italian kind), and like any good glutton I keep trying to shove more in as the high begins to fail and frankly, I don’t think any more will fit.
Thursday night, I drove up to hear Sherman Alexie speak in a junior high gymnasium in La Connor. It was a series of ridiculous highs, beginning with my reading the third poem in his most recent poetry collection, Face, about trying to convince his father to go back on dialysis which twisted me all up (family history here) even before he began to speak. And then the man let loose with a torrent of jokes, which periodically morphed into making fun of his upper middle class white audience (making me laugh harder), poop stories with morals about writing, more stories about watching his father die and an utterly unplanned moment in which he realized he was speaking at a podium emblazoned with the school’s mascot – the La Conner Braves – wearing the stereotypical and utterly wrong for the Pacific Northwest feather headdress. Yes, he got down and posed for a picture with it and I am pissed that I had no camera. The man is a storyteller and a beautiful poet and he managed to make me laugh and cry in public.
I spent Friday reading the aforementioned new poetry book and trying, like a kid emulating a basketball star, to ape his style in a vain attempt to better my own writing.
Saturday, I indulged in a panel discussion between a Canadian poet whose work was breathtaking and casually used “fuck” regardless of the age of the audience (he also compared poetry to pornography), a woman who told a story about writing graphic poetry about child-birth that appalled her audience and poet who grew up in an Arizona border town and admitted that while he writes in English words, he writes in Spanish. The whole thing was presided over by a man named Sam Green, who it turns out (and this is perhaps embarrassing to admit) is the Poet Laureate of my own green state of Washington. But what I really loved about him was when he explained how he used to recite poetry while on watch in Vietnam because he figured “no one would shoot someone reciting poetry”. That and his work is beautiful.
I followed the panel up with a binge on more books and a workshop with a storyteller who basically told stories so long we all forgot what time it was and the workshop ran over. Its become very clear to me that, when the line is drawn between Story and high literature, I am clearly on the side of Story.
Today, I found a recent copy of The Paris Review and read an interview with Ray Bradbury, who despite a stroke and losing his wife and begin freaking ninety years old (or something like that) is STILL WRITING STORIES, because I think if he every stopped writing he would die. Because it’s just what he does. It is who he is.
It seems impossible to write anything of my own with all these brilliant men and their gourmet ideas running around in my head and at the same time, they are exactly what remind me how magnificent it is to sit down and build something on the page. Something with story, something that laughs or cries or horrifies or is utterly irreverent or is simply something because I can’t keep all of these rich ideas to myself.