Wednesday July 16, 2008
Wake up at 4:00 a.m. I'm on the beach by 5:30. From a distance I see ten sticks — no, stick figures— at regular intervals where yesterday there were none, closer up it's a minyan of fishermen standing in the shallow water. On the water of the Strait small boats lie anchored, dark silhouettes against the daybreak pastels on the horizon, salmon season has opened.
After reading The Pink Institution by Selah Saterstrom I know more about white space in fiction and experimental literature, but also and unfortunately I dare say I understand the story itself better than one might want to do. In the one binder I brought that would have sufficed (no need to have schlepped the milk crate with six others) I find notes dated 2001 on Folie a Deux.
Attending the conference as a Centrum resident rather than workshop participant gives me lots of time to reflect on where I'm at with my manuscript. No pressure to deliver. I've let go of the average daily word count of 500, am more concerned with the steps I take (literally over 10,000 a day).
Thoughts come and go, waves of understanding leaving sullen impressions on my mind. I've succumbed to the fact that this is a week of much craved "peopleizing"; being among word smiths exactly what my life lacks on a day to day basis.
Twelve hours after a bird song woke me up I attend a lecture on the importance of voice by the author of Alpha Zulu.
Gary Copeland Lilley takes the stage at The Wheeler Theatre. He talks about Persona Poems, about speaking for those who can't, about being a witness and pointing a finger at what's not right. People are more apt to believe the Persona who stands somewhere between writer and reader (and thus The Persona is a welcome "face" in advertising (JvP)).
During Lilley's lecture Zora Neale Hurston the earliest "voice of African Americans" comes to my mind and how I discovered "Their Eyes Were Watching God" in Paris, in the library of Sophie Vallas (Professor of American Literature) and how Zora's storytelling guided me through a landscape I could never have known from my own experience, speaking in voices of people who otherwise would not have been heard…
"I always felt sorry for Popeye because of Olive Oil," Lilley said, "always being beaten up by Bluto."
And then Patricia Smith came with her take on the steamy love triangle between Olive Oil and her two beaus, and the role Bluto had played in her life… A good way to show how changing THE point of view may change YOUR point of view.
Lilley, a veteran of the U. S. Navy Submarine Force, speaking passionately about his experiences under water, takes us inside the submarine and we feel his empathy (not the same as sympathy, he stresses) for the other, the individual whose predicament he understands with every cell in his brain and body. He talks about word choice, sound pattern and diction but the element he doesn't mention, and doesn't need to mention for he's the personification of the notion, is passion, followed real close by compassion.
I prep for the open mike, cutting sections from the (so far) first chapter of my book "The Writing on the Wall" (aka as Jake's Cut, or Painting for Life) to fit within the allotted five minutes per reader. Deborah the M.C. promises to be stern and I finish without her cut sign. The reactions from the audience are good. I'm thrilled. Relaxed (for I've had my moment) I can sit back and enjoy the other writers reading. Great variety, interesting work, lovely evening. Some go out for drinks, I think I'll sleep. But instead my text keeps on milling through my head until deep into the night.
Too bad poetry and prose Open Mikes took place at exactly the same time but at different locations, I would have liked to attend the poetry reading and listened to new friends.