Lucinda Williams does a great song called Joy. Do you know that one? This song, like most of Lucinda’s, is not gleeful. But she is a blues singer.
One of my friends who teaches poetry workshops told me that he made an assignment once to a group of graduate students. Simply put, he asked everyone to write a happy poem. Not one person turned in the assignment.
Do your poems tend to monopolize one particular emotion? Do you have favorite poems that could be called joyous?
Christa’s post has encouraged me to keep adding to my own story, so here’s a little more of it. After the 2 semesters of freshman English I was really at a loss. By hunting for orange spines or skinny books, I was often able to find some kind of poetry, but I didn’t know a soul who shared my interest.
I carried around a slim volume of poetry for pretty much the entire year. The school I chose to attend was not known as a breeding ground for all things literary, and I don’t recall luring in a single fish with my chosen book-bait, Pieces by Robert Creeley. But by the time I returned it to the campus library, it was soft from my constant revisitations.
20 years later Creeley did a reading in Houston and agreed to visit a group of kids involved with Writers in the Schools (WITS), the organization I work for. The high school students who met with him attend a performing arts program, and they had some great questions. Some asked about writing, but many steered the conversation toward their own chosen art form, so he talked about jazz musicians, painters, and collaboration. I got a big kick out of the fact that he somehow managed to mention being in prison three times.
After the Q & A, I told Creeley the story about how I toted his book around New Orleans for a year. He asked me, “Which one of my books did you carry?” When I told him, he said that was an excellent choice and gave me a kiss on my cheek.
I’ve been considering the possibility of starting a blog about all-things-poetry for many months now. It’s not that I think I have the answers. Or even the questions. I’m not looking for a soapbox. But I am interested in the blog as zocolo, as town square, a place of exchange and conversation.
I attended two grad programs in creative writing, and the thing that struck me then and now is that the conversations both in class and outside of class were sensational. I can remember sitting in the private room at the Brown Bottle (Iowa City) listening to my friends Stephanie Brown and Jeff Hamilton talking about Lester Bangs, People magazine, and the new formalists all at the same time and thinking, This is really something. Twenty years later I feel exactly the same way.
Great conversations are getting rare. In her book, turning to one another, Margaret Wheatley argues for a renaissance of the conversation. She outlines the norms that must exist for honest conversation to take place. My favorite one is, “We must stay curious about one another.”
There’s so much to talk about. Let’s begin the begin.