Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Cave Canem Update - Monday, June 19

A lot has happened in the past two days – it has been so busy that I have not really had much time to write – sorry! However, I was up pretty late dealing with some late night arrivals and trips to the hospital, etc. - More on that later. This post is about Sunday and Monday.

All of our writers have now arrived, and are in their workshops as I write this. 54 workshop participants this year, and they are all getting to know each other and swapping poems and telling their stories as the week progresses.

Welcoming Circle
The Welcoming Circle on Sunday night lasted about 3 ½ hours – time for all the fellows and the instructors to introduce and reacquaint themselves, complete with some spirituals getting sung, tears being shed, lots of laughter getting’ loose, and individual stories getting’ told. The Welcoming Circle is a tradition that has been passed down since CC’s inception. I first witnessed it in 1997, and it is remarkable how little it has changed over the years – and how moving it is every time. It truly is a beautiful thing to see all these incredible black poets sharing their fears and wishes with each other, and displaying so much trust in such an open way. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t been here, but think family reunion/ church “testifyin’"/ backporch barbecue – and all with folks like you that know the ins and outs and highs and lows of your bigtime love – The Word.

Of course, we had folks coming in all through the afternoon, and late into the night. Folks that had traveled 15 hours on the Greyhound, folks that didn’t arrive until 2:30 a.m. because of delays on the highway, folks that had their cars break down on the highway, had to call the AAA, and got delayed many hours, folks with multiple plane delays, and folks with 3 hour train delays. But wasn’t nobody gettin’ turned around!

Deadlines and Workshops
Even those who came in during the late night managed to turn in a poem for the 10 a.m. deadline - or at least brought copies of their poems to workshop. Yes, every CC fellow has to turn in a new poem for the 10 a.m. deadline each morning. Then, from 2-5 pm, llows separated into groups that scrutinize, cauterize, hospitalize, and find the prize in each poem. After workshop, I heard some folks sayin’ “Yeah, they ripped my poem up – I was so glad for it! I needed that!” For some folks, it is their first workshop experience - for others, CC is a step away from the MFA workshop - a place where they can get critique in a way they just can't in their mostly-white MFA programs.

Of course, we all had dinner @ 6 pm - and then we went to a Faculty Reading - more on that later!

Tyehimba Jess

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