Whirlwind visit to Francis Marion U, where my old friend Jo Angela Edwins invited me in for a performance on February 3rd. Jo Angela is a terrific poet in her own right, and though it was tiring to schlep down to South Carolina right after the book launch, I would not have missed a chance to catch up with her!
I'm barely functional today, but glad I went! The performance there was warmly received and I should have some pictures from them soon, as their newspaper photographer took a zillion shots.
But my experiences there were memorable for other reasons than poetry! The college is located on the grounds of a former plantation. The oaks and pines are laden with Spanish moss. Some of the slave cabins have been preserved and they sit near the dormitories and classrooms. The slave cemetery is buried deep in the woods. My host had not visited the cemetery. I told her that she had to do so. She's a poet, for God's sake! Many of the students at FMU are the descendants of those slaves.
I was housed in a beautiful guest cottage, built by Pepsi. The cottage is surrounded by the pines--and I knew as soon as I tried to go to sleep that the woods surrounding the cottage were haunted. The creaking, the whispering, the restless spirits around the place were palpable. With this blog I'll attach a photo of a slave cabin.
The students were adorable, a sweetly integrated and diverse audience in terms of gender, age, race. No Jews. I could tell by the perplexed faces when I used words like "challah" and "mezuzah." The Jewish humor was lost. Still, I was colorful, I kept moving around, and those present were smiling! We had fun!
I read a lot of sexy poems, one called "Mango Woman" about a happy vagina--and tried to make the connections with the V week program. The funniest and most wonderful thing happened while I was on campus. The Vagina Monologue Week committee had endorsed a large soft sculpture of a wearable vagina puppet. One artistic student was wearing this around campus. But other students decided to make fun of the puppet (barbarians!) and they created their own vagina sculpture puppet, and one of them wore the fraudulent v into the student center. The authentic Vagina Monologue students became very upset. Who could blame them! So what did they do? They called the registrar! :)
Can you just picture the registrar after that phone call? "There's an unauthorized vagina in the UC--what should we do?"
On a serious note, the programming at FMU was focused on preventing violence against women. Admission to my performance was free, but everyone was asked to bring paper towels, toilet paper, and tampons, to go to the battered women's shelter. First time people have paid to see me with tampons! But I said I'd be serious. My dear host collected quite a lot of goods for the shelter. We had time to catch up, and I ate grits, good grits, with lots of butter and cream in them. In Florence, South Carolina, people think "cholesterol" is a place to visit! Reminded me of my childhood breakfasts served up by my mother, who was Montgomery, Alabama, all the way!
Causes Marilyn Kallet Supports
Southern Poverty Law Center, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, ACLU, Amnesty International, Save Darfur.