When I was nineteen, I enrolled in a Friday afternoon course called The English Reading Series. We met in the basement of the campus library in a large, beautiful auditorium. We were the typical English major type. The out-spoken feminist, the lanky boy, the ones that talk too much, the ones that don't talk at all. We were in our own heads and needed to get out. We listened to wispy traveling poets, Orson Scott Card, Brian Doyle, The Deseret News local columnists, the Welsh poet in residence Leslie Norris, and various other poets and essayists. Keenan would skip class to sit close to me, share glass Martinelli's apple juice and Einstein's bagels, and feed off my excitement for fine literary works. (He started reading novels and enrolled in creative writing, sneakily aligning his interests with mine.) Some presentations were dull and dragging but most were awe-inspiring. The authors read with passion and angst. Many cried and paused for far too long, signaling sage life experience and a depth and breadth of emotion a young, innocent Mormon girl could only imagine. As I listened, I was transported away from the tiny town of Provo into a sophisticated, all-feeling world that simultaneously fascinated and terrified me. I couldn't wrap my mind around people actually writing for a living. Having the audacity, naiveté, stupidity, etc. to do that, when really all I wanted was to do the same. I was so scared. I thought I wasn't, but I was terrified of everything less than perfection.
It’s been seven years since the English Reading Series. I would not consider myself a writer, but I do write. And I am a recovered perfectionist. Now, to The Paris Review which has the best/snootiest tagline ever: For the good writers and good poets, the non-drumbeaters and non-axe grinders. So long as they’re good. This poem from Geoffrey H. Hartman featured in the latest issue of The Paris Review gave me flutters:
How can I say, let there be night
how can I say any thing?
You laugh, that I talk a lot,
but no, my mouth dreams
touching blank earth
marking it for a running fire,
a runway of sketches, without
wings, words in sight.
I want to rifle through our bookshelves, drape myself in my oldest, comfiest (and therefore ugliest) sweatshirt, and get back to some good solid poetry.
Beautiful image of Issue 56 (from 1973!) found on Reckon.