Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In which I play catchup

Round Top rocked.

Rather than do the more-organized yet more-obnoxious manner of posting (which would be to backdate individual posts for each of the days I was there), I'm tossing all posts in at once, accompanied by the date, separated by my usual three dashes.


Wed Apr 15

Flights felt long. Time with Carl and Elizabeth felt like not nearly enough. Boom Blox is awesome. There is a sketch of me/someone as a harried business traveler. The photo is shaky. The sketch is shaky, too, but not as shaky as my photo-taking arm in too little lighting.



Thurs Apr 16

I'd missed people. I missed some people. It was good to be on campus for a couple of hours.

That night got to meet Gwen, one of the caretakers at Round Top, who was nice enough to point me to my sleeping place when I got there past the time I should have and couldn't find anybody.



Fri Apr 17

Badgerdog! The buses were late by nearly two hours, thanks to a torrential downpour that covered Austin, Round Top, and any number of regional towns and cities Friday morning. The kids, however, were great.

I ran two workshops of about ten students each, middle and high schoolers. Each group had a couple of real wiseasses, which warmed my heart. May these kids not have the sense of intellectual adventures beat out of them by the TAKS tests. Here's the thing that really made me happy - it's not that they laughed at my jokes (which is ingratiating but something I can separate during my assessment of the workshop), kit's not that they asked some decent questions (even one good question in fifty minutes under the circumstances would have been pretty darn good, and they came through with more), it's that almost half of them got up to read/recite during the open mic following lunch. A huge part of my message for this age group has to do with confidence and identity, that it's OK to put yourself out there, to be somebody else or even pretend to be somebody. More than that, it's OK to put yourself out there as you, the you you want to be seen as. It's a chance to truly control others' perceptions of you. It's scary, but it's also empowering. So when the first student blanked out on a poem she had thought she had memorized, I made sure to have everyone clap a second time just for the guts it took to try. Some of them were playful, some serious, but all put themselves on the line. Sometimes twice. All of them came a little closer to being their own persons. So to Ashley, Andrea, Mac, Danielle, Daniella, Nayeli, Sarah, Roberta, Tiffany, Yvonne, India, Viany, Amelia, Perla, Ashley, Ariana, Trinidata, Tre', Amber, and Lisa: thank you.

Additional thanks to Jo, Wendy, and Tamam, my new poetry buddies and with whom I enjoyed much of the weekend.


Sat Apr 18

I read "Icarus cannot be a palindrome" and performed "Mother Earth," "Sign of the Turtle," "Wooden Boys and Deadlier Toys," and "ADD TV" at the 9am reading. Got to meet Abe Young, and she was a real pleasure to hear. Even with a 9am slot, performing on the Festival Hall concert stage was a blast. I could have gone off mic for all but the beatboxed static at the end of the last piece. Some day I want to do a full-length show there.

Three other highlights for the day:

One, Fady Joudah's commentary during the panel discussion. This guy's poetry is good - not that a Yale Younger Series winner needs my endorsement - but what impresses me most is how deliberately and thoroughly he considers his work, its relation to himself, its relations to the world, and the implications that arise. Case in point - a Palestinian-American poet with a major award behind him and time spent in Doctors Without Borders wondering to what degree he takes part in and even perpetuates a spectrum of suffering that results in aid only for certain groups who are eventually forgotten in favor of a new group that suffers "more." This is not blind liberal guilt. This is seeing the connectedness and brokenness of the world.

Two, Naomi Shihab Nye gives great readings of great breadth. I love that she reads from her own work (and reads it well), from the work of poets she enjoys and respects, and even tosses in poetic moments in overheard conversations. When Naomi reads, you realize that she finds poetry everywhere. And by this I don't mean she forces the issue by trying to rank her speciality above all others, comparing every art to her own. That's a small-minded trap, meant to further the ego of the artist involved. Rather, whether or not you like Naomi's style of poetry, you have to admit that she is always looking outside herself, always looking to channel the brilliance she believes surrounds her all the time.

Three, hearing W.S. Merwin read. I like Merwin. He's deep, he's pretty funny, and he's humble. Not bad for a (now) two-time Pulitzer winner.


Sun Apr 19

Two highlights:

One, Bruce Noll's Pure Grass that morning- better than trying to be Whitman, Bruce figured out how to embody joyously Whitman's poems in a recitation/performance that was unabashed and inspiring on both technical and emotional levels. If you ever get the chance to see him work, do it.

Two, improv tag team with Adam Mitchell, Mic Check's musical guest that night. I performed "Sign of the Turtle" and "ADD TV," read Shira Erlichman's "Daddy's Parking Lot Sermon," performed Glenn Phillips's "Ma'am. Please Put Those Jeans Down" and "Wooden Boys and Deadlier Toys," and then got Adam to hum a little gospel as I read "A Reading from the Book of Mendeleev." Crowd loved it. I like this guy's playing and would have bought a CD had any been available. Revolution Cafe remains a cultural force in the Brazos Valley.


Mon Apr 20

Marley & Me on the plane almost made me tear up, even without the sound.

Good timing, since I got to see my own pups again. Hello dogs!

It gets even better. Hello wife! I'm home!


Tues Apr 21

Shouldn't I be unpacked by now? Shouldn't I be blogging again by now?


Wed Apr 22

Oh no, I've entered a wormhole and am typing before I begin to type. Or typing after I type. Or something. Doing errands. Revising poems I wrote while at Round Top. Will post those tomorrow - the weather is beautiful, so screw my plan to post twice a day!

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