I've been working on the same poem all week. I keep waiting for a revelation. How to fix it. The word, revelation, reminds me somehow of Martin Luther. He was said to have had some of his revelations on the toilet seat when praying for relief. In this way he learned that God sometimes listens. But not always.
Readings. I have some readings coming up. One in Tremont this Saturday. I try not to think about that fact too much. I get so nervous sometimes.
Then I think about the good, the bad, and the so-so readings I’ve attended. But one thing’s for sure. I will never forget my first. I was a freshman at Bryn Mawr College (I was there only a year), and I went to a reading one evening by accident. I mean I hadn’t intended to go. I was on my way to the library when one of the English professors caught up to me. She said there was this event I shouldn’t miss. A reading by a very famous, very southern writer. I was southern, wasn’t I? By then she was guiding me by my arm. So we went together to this formal room, smallish and carpeted, with a few people milling around. I think there were twenty people or so, and most were older, clearly from the faculty. I remember this long-winded introduction. Then this bent woman stood up. I was amazed at how she looked just like a toad. She was soft-spoken at first. But then all of a sudden she took off. She started reading in this thick, southern accent at 100 mph without even stopping for air. She was like a southern accent on steroids. You had to concentrate to keep up. I started laughing and couldn’t stop. She read "Why I Live at the P.O." first. The professor sitting next to me asked if I could understand her. That’s when I realized that Eudora Welty’s accent was so thick, some people were completely lost. They sat stone-faced, staring ahead, as people so often do at readings. But I was in heaven. It was like going home without going home.
I guess we all have a few memories of readings like that. No?
Lately I’ve been depressed and tired, so tired, I can’t even bother to focus . . . (I have screwy eyes so this is easy to do this—to let reality blur until it looks like an Impressionist mess) on anything. Which means I keep misreading words.
I read the title of this poem by Amy Lemmon and Denise Duhamel, “Subway Blunder,” in the new and wonderful Barn Owl Review, and I was sure it said “Subway Blonde.” I even read the poem, waiting for the Subway Blonde to appear. But all the woman were brunettes.
I started to wonder about the blondes. And if they had left before the poem was done.
And I was reminded of how I received a nasty rejection letter last fall from a review that had kept the poem for two years, and the editor decided to tell me why I was so bad, and maybe it was because I was blonde. The editor went on to correct my use of the word, blondes. They’re blonds, not blondes, he wrote.
I wanted to write back that all my blondes have an e on the end, and they don’t like it when you leave out their best parts. Men like him know nothing about the blondes.
Oh, there are so many times I’ve wanted to write back to editors like that. But as a blonde woman, I’ve learned its best to smile and just say: thank you, please, and oh yes.
I keep thinking about what James Tate said, how he never revises. Because whatever I say, write, think, I want to take it back. Spruce it up, give it new clothes.
It’s true. I revise everything. I change my mind constantly. I’m always making mistakes and trying (to no avail) to fix them. I even dreamt about it last night. I dreamt I was in bed with an Asian man who smelled like curry. Then he wasn’t really a man. He was a woman with red fingernails. Or she was in bed with us too. She told me to stop sleeping with her husband. No, no, I said, I would never do such a thing. I have never even met your husband. I began to apologize profusely. But it was too late for apologies. I mean there I was in the bed with them. And in their dreams.
My friend, Z, has a dream coach (no shit) who has taught her how to fix her dreams. She does this in her sleep (literally). It's kind of like having the pope overseeing her dreams.
I’m not sure I want to sleep or dream with a pope. I have enough poetry popes. If there is such a thing. I’d like to get rid of them all. I’d like to be like James Tate and say, whatever I did, it’s done now. And I will think of title in a matter of minutes. Ten minutes max. And then, the poem is over, like a bad dream. Or a good one. Who knows?
This is recent pic of Suzanne's family in El Salvador. Not sure what they're making, but sometimes when I get wrapped up in my world here, I like to take a break and look at pics of her there.
I think of her recent phone calls when she tells how she doesn't think she's doing enough. Jeepers, I want to say. You mean you haven't saved the world yet? Me, I'm still trying to fix line 3 in a poem about God only knows what.
S told me this joke she learned in the Peace Corps. What do you call someone who knows two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who knows three languages? Trilingual. What do you call someone who speaks only one language? Gringo.
Okay, I admit it. I did have fun at AWP. It's the friends that made it. Denise and Nick (they're the best, always and forever), Peter Genevieve, David and Amy, Jo and Karen, Richard and Sally. And the readings. I love listening to Tate and Collins and Simic and Edson and Irving and . . . I even like listening to Simic ramble happily.
Nin Andrews is the author of 5 full collections of poetry and 5 chapbooks. She is also the editor of a book of translations of the Belgian poet, Henri Michaux. She keeps a literary blog and a blog of physics comics.