The Quest Part II: AWP ’13

This was supposed to be a post about Margaret and I walking for hours in the snow-ladden fields and woodlands behind my grandparent’s/parent’s farmhouse discussing sacred color patterns, interdimensional beings who reside in the blacks of our eyes, the best means of seeking out worm-holes and collapsing them into living creatures, and how all of this must be found in any good poem–inside of any code you expect to point a finger towards the place you must pass through to meet god.

But somehow this post is instead about wrestling poets at the AWP conference in an alien mask and a bumblee bee costume. I promise I can still get us to enlightenment from here.

Friday night’s keynote was by Derek Walcott who spoke about brotherhood, about how you need a partner to push you to keep writing the good poems, the ones that only come when someone helps you rip down your borders, not expecting a single thing to come through that you actually want. Margaret and I exchange a glance that says “thanks for pushing me.”  Sometimes we fall and split open our skulls, sometimes we fall into the VIP party. Either way we laugh. Yeah, in the former situation it’s not very nice, but we do it anyhow.

This kind of partnership involves metaphorical and literal handholding as we strip naked and jump into icy lakes in January at midnight in the middle of the woods, no flashlights, no towels, dead body discovered the month before half a mile up the trail–three dunks to the top of your head, I don’t care if you go blind, I don’t care if you can’t move your feet, because if you cheat, neither of us pays, and even if we almost die, every single time, its the only way to live.

So, when Margaret gets teary after I hold up a bumble bee costume to inaugural poet Richard Blanco and ask him to wrestle–I know I’m doing good work. And when we get recognized in the hallway by a stranger who says “You two again, you’re always such a problem,” we know we’re drilling the right holes to let god in.

The people at the Pitt Poetry Series table will not be soliciting our next manuscript.  But Blanco understands the embodied metaphor and requests masked wrestling at the afterparty–you know, when he’s not under contract. Agni editors will not remember us fondly if they see our names on a submission. But the harpist at the Agni party appreciated the twenty bucks for one more song and my almost bar-fight with a guy who wouldn’t heed my advice and shut up long enough to listen to it. And poets after eye gazing trying to answer “what is nothing,” thank us for helping them earn their keep, because at least one alien needed to get his ass kicked here, and at least one bee needed to not lose his stinger after vanquishing his foe–and what the fuck are we all really just networking here in a room full of rebels, poets, imagineers, and dreamers? Please take off your shoes, your skirts, grab someone’s shoulders, scream at them a line from the Songs of Solomon as you toss them to the floor and stare into their eyes behind the alien as someone counts to three–someone else will see this and think “Who am I writing for anyhow?”

Margaret and I danced twice one night to Ass and Titties as sung by a homeless man sitting outside a bar with a clear plastic cup and a paint tub as instruments. He was a choir of angels, and only we could hear him. Margaret met god standing next to him and gave him a pendant. It was the most important thing happening in the universe. It was a fucking amazing poem.

I cut my hair while standing on a folding chair behind Conduit‘s book table that was one of two mountains that I walked between seven times and scaled. And I was Abraham’s scorned wife. And it was communion with my higher self. And it was ritual. (Thank you for the story and instruction Hiba!) And what kind of gathering of poets has no ritual? And I cast it off–my expectations of success, of having more than two eyes/Is ever read my words, of needing more than one witness for anything, ever again for the rest of my strokes of keys or pen.

I need my words to only push one other through to the other side, not 10,000, not even ten. It’s not even my choice, it’s theirs.  It’s all for them after all. All of the others. The universe. My god. “My god, what have you done/spilt/split/broken/fixed,” every time I look at the page. All these symbols and not one of them I understand, and that means it must be perfect–a perfect fucking joke–Let’s tell another one sister. I promise I‘ll get it this time–

So, I walk up to Richard Blanco with an alien mask and a bumble bee costume and ask him…

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