***this blog was supposed to go up last night, but blogger was trippin***
So I had my first of what I'm sure will be many emotional moments today. It wasn't the first tear I've shed since my arrival. Ms. Ntozake Shange ripped that bad boy clean out of the duct with a wicked piece called "Crack Annie" that she read for us during this morning's craft workshop. Not to rub it in, but she and her companion Clyde also blessed us with an exclusive preview of a new vignette for the upcoming Broadway production of For Colored Girls...
The week's first workshop didn't do it either. I am honored to be in the marvelous company of Group C this year, and we had a wonderful experience with Colleen McElroy, who is a dynamic first-year faculty member. It is always amazing to see how many different children the night (and wee hours of the morning) gives birth to. I worked hard on my poem, harder than I've worked on any poem I've written here except maybe the final poem of last year's workshop. I found myself whining to my suite mates and new-found friends because the poem wasn't coming together.
"I wish my poems were like pre-fab houses," I complained. "This is like sawing down the tree first." But in that moment, I recognized the process at work. We are creating from scratch, and it is messy business. Suddenly, I knew what it meant to sweat for a poem. To have something so important to say that it is worth the effort to find the right words, the right metaphor, to apply a substantial amount of the advice I have heard here over the years. To craft something that is powerful and beautiful and true in equal measure.
That poem didn't make me cry, either. What did it, was Cornelius. You know, everybody says Toi is the tear jerker of our founding duo. I have yet to cry in one of her workshops. Cornelius is supposed to be the laid back one, right? But while he was reading "Gratitude" this evening, transporting us back to those classrooms, those cold places where Gwendolyn Brooks' pushmen and our own demonic doubts lurk, I imagined what my life would have been like if I had never come to Cave Canem. I imagined what my life would be like after this week, after this summer... no more faculty readings, no more fellows readings. A sista got a little misty, you know what I'm saying? I know that's not "in the moment" but can a poet ever truly practice that Zen state? Isn't our craft dependent upon weaving together existence, memory, and projection?
I just want to say how grateful I am for this experience, for the opportunity to know you (all of the fellows I have come to know), to spend time with you, to laugh with you, to cry with you, to party with you, to write with you, to learn from you, to grow with you. I feel one of those good gut-deep church balcony crying sessions coming on. That first year, I got up on the fellows stage, and you guys leapt to your feet. Your appreciation of my words, of the person behind the words was so sincere. It was so pure and spontaneous. It knocked me to the ground, and when I got up, I was not the same Deidre. That kicked off something inside me that goes so much deeper than ego or pride. Something started to heal in me.
I know people laugh at us and think we are crazy because we speak of Cave Canem so deeply. To the outside, it sounds cultish. Certain people who shall remain nameless seem to enjoy poking holes in Cave Canem. Zora put it best: you got to go there to know there.
So to each of them, Love.