Letter from My 48th Year (Mar 22)
Oh friends, I didn’t really mean not to blog for five days, which is not at all the same as writing every day this year, is it? Sigh…
Let’s blame Detective Murdoch shall we, as if it’s not me that makes the choice to spend every evening after work watching Murdoch Mysteries. As if Yannick Bisson himself is sending me secret messages—disguised as banal Instagram posts—saying You.Must.Watch. (Or perhaps it’s Constable Crabtree but at this point I dare say you’ve gotten the point that I’m shiftless and feckless and prone to TVing when I should be writing.)
Just home from an unexpected dinner with poets after a beautiful reading hosted by the Folger Shakespeare Library at the Phillips Collection. In some ways it was difficult to pay attention to the reading because the work was so good, it kept spinning me off into my own musings about poems and lyric essays and imaginative writing and so forth.
Afterwards, dinner with the poets and at one point I looked around the table and felt so incredibly grateful to not only be out with poets but to be out with poets of color. No need to speak in code. No need to explain otherness or difference. There is a certain exhale that can happen when there are only people of color—in this case Asian, Native American, black—in the room, a way that one can utterly be oneself.
Tomorrow I’m doing a panel after a performance of Nat Turner in Jerusalem at Forum. The three other panelists have various affiliations, but I am listed solely as poet (at my request). And I’m pondering how rarely that happens, that can one be called upon to speak authoritatively on a subject —outside of poetry—simply because one is a poet. On the one hand it’s a simple matter of policy; I rarely identify my status as a bureaucrat outside of events in which I’m participating in my federal capacity. On the other hand, it feels like a momentous claiming of who I am, of what my “real” work is. At any rate, it feels quite good (albeit also terrifying because what the hell do I know poet or otherwise?).
Speaking of Forum Theatre (which I try to do often because I really am inspired and impressed by the work they do), it’s been interesting over the last couple of years to see my orbit expand to include more theater people. I identified as a theater person for so long and, in fact, was determined to attend St. Francis Preparatory School for high school not because it had (at the time) an unbeatable academic reputation but because on the school’s brochure, I saw the words “Alvernian Drama Society,” and I knew that I had to be part of that. And it was, in fact, the best part of my high school existence.
Though I didn’t perform for most of my time in college, I did work at a theater, and my senior year I got involved in performing again and spent the first few years after college heavily engaged in the community theater scene as producer, stage manager, and performer, ending my time in Boston both stage managing and acting for a professional company, the Speakeasy Stage Company. In fact, I moved to Chicago to be an actress though, of course as you probably know, instead I bloomed into my life as a poet. I don’t know what it means to have theater becoming such a part of my life again, but it is exciting to be making at least a wee bit of a home in that world again (though I still hate musicals. Sorry folks!)
I know that’s an incredible hodge podge of things, and I’d like to further hodge podge it up by leaving you with this video that I saw on my friend Cathy’s page this morning. I’ve seen one or two of Russell Brand’s comedy specials, and I do believe he is one of the greatest underrated philosopher-thinkers of our time. I’m not advocating you get his self-help book (I can rarely make my way through those things), but I do think that even if you’re not an addict, there is much that resonates with what he says below in terms of our lives just as plain old human beings.