Today in Nashville the Southern Festival of Books began! I hadn’t been in a few years, and I was pumped to be on Fall Break and have the chance to get down there this afternoon. I got to hear poet Mark Jarman read and speak and I bought his newest collection, Bone Fires. Now that’s a guy I’d love to sit down and have a cup of coffee with. I also got to meet Susan Cushman, a writer and Orthodox Christian, who reached out to me via Facebook after reading an essay I wrote. I was in line at the Parnassus Books booth, her book, Circling Faith, in my hand, when I saw her. Serendipity, anyone? We had a great mini-conversation, and I am excited to hear her read/speak on Sunday.
My friend Chet, who was in the MFA program with me at Murray State, is one of the coolest people (and poets) you’ll ever meet, and he organizes a monthly writing/music night every month here in Nashville called Poetry Sucks! A Night of Poetry, Music, and All Sorts of Bad Language. I shamefacedly admit I’ve only been to one of them so far (I can’t stay up past 9 anymore), but I am so proud of Chet because Humanities Tennessee asked him to be a part of the Southern Festival of Books!
Chet has a great line-up of poets, writers, and musicians to be a part of the two -hour, open-mic style show. And yes, yours truly will be reading! Plus my good friend from Murray, Carrie Gaffney, creative non-fiction writer extraordinaire, will be there too! So Nashvillians, if you’re not doing anything on tomorrow, come on out to the Southern Festival of Books! Poetry Sucks! is from 4-6 on the Chapter 16 Stage at War Memorial Plaza. There will also be a second round of Poetry Sucks! Saturday night from 9-11 at Bang Candy Company at 1300 Clinton Street, #127. I’ll definitely be reading at the 4-6 time; not sure if I’m reading at the evening one, but I’ll be there!
I’ve decided to read creative non-fiction rather than poetry. I feel like I’m taking a risk. Though all my blogging is kinda like writing CNF, writing blog posts are different from reading your writing to a live audience. With blog posts, I don’t get to see your response unless you write a comment. There’s some safety in that distance. If you think my post was boring as hell, I’ll never know.
I’ve toyed around with a couple of different piece to read this week, even sending some things out to a couple of friends to comment on. I’ve finally decided. I’m not reading something from my spiritual memoir. I’m not reading something that’s ever been posted on my blog. I’m reading something very honest and raw. It’s kind of an edgy piece for me, but I think it will resonate with people. I hope so. I’m calling on Mary Oliver to help me be “afraid of nothing” tomorrow!
I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbably beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.
– Mary Oliver
The lines from Mary Oliver remind me of this poem by Wilson MacDonald:
A Gypsy Song
Let Art awhile a gypsy be,
And words a vagrant throng–
Let all the lure of Romany
Come dancing up my song;
Come dancing zigzag on the breeze
Like whimsy thistle-down,
And caring less than it to please
The idlers of the town.
Let Art refresh our pallid schools
With crimson of the heart–
Let her forsake her cramping rules
And tear her measured chart;
And let her outcast brood of sound,
That know the scoffer’s sneer,
On savage lute and lyre astound
The little bards of fear.
Let Art regain her virgin flaw
And lose her studied grace,
And run, a maiden nude, to awe
The soulless market-place;
Let her tired hair unfold its braid
And lie along the wind,
Until again we see the maid
The Masters once designed.
We blush at passion in our runes,
And daring fancies shun;
Yet rather than an age of moons
Would I an hour of sun.
The droning scholars far too long
Have ruled the rhymes of men:
Bring back the wayward flights of song
And errant bards again.