Yesterday I travelled across rainy Maryland to join six other readers gathered by editors Katherine Smith and Julie Wakeman-Linn (literary talents in their own right). Co-sponsored by the Potomac Review and Women’s Studies Program at Montgomery College, “Women Poets Write about AIDS,” featured a reading/discussion followed by writing workshops centering on social issues. I’d read at MC before with my husband, Ned Balbo, and I remembered the passionate intensity of the students in the audience. This event, I thought, promised to be even more inspiring.
But I was late—between ambiguous Mapquest directions, faulty inner GPS and inconsistent secondary road signage, I’d gotten spectacularly lost. I drove past schools and through subdivisions where trees seemed to be buffeted into spring, tracking and back-tracking through torrents of rain—the kind of “getting lost” that makes a poem but doesn’t rate in reality.
As group readings inevitably do, this one ran over. So I could sneak in, slink into a seat near the door, then listen enthusiastically to lively work by Lisa Freedman (a poet who’s written and written and performed with the AIDS Theatre Project) and Nancy Naomi Carlson (poet/editor/school counselor whose new translations of French poet René Char is forthcoming from Tupelo Press).
It’s tough being in a long line-up of poets or panelists, watching and waiting for your turn at the mic. Then getting up there to find the audience’s already exhausted. I’d come with a clutch of longish, deliberative elegies (Katrina Robert’s “Terminology,” and Rachel Hadas’ “Arguments of Silence” among them). Maybe not the best time to read some new poems?
I settled on Tory Dent’s “RIP, My Love,” happy to hear that fierce music fill the room. Shifting into small groups for some on-the-spot writing about social issues, I had the chance to introduce students to the excellent poetry blog, Starting Today: Poems for the First Hundred Days (Day #46, Allison Joseph’s “Conservative Love in the Age of Obama” especially struck a chord). I looked around the room as students and faculty scribbled away.
Words as maps. On a dark day, under flickering artificial light, rain battering the roof, there we were—tiny nationhoods of hope.
For more on the Potomac Review, its wonderful editors, the 100 days blog, see:
Causes Jane Satterfield Supports
Associated Writers and Writing Programs (AWP)
Association for Research on Mothering (ARM)