I am attending a poetry event.
Not unlike those I have attended, and organized in the past, though this one is devoted
to the book, and not the word: all around are all manner of pamphlets, magazines,
periodicals and books, some made by the poets themselves--what better trade for a poet in
the past, both far and recent, to be printer and bookmaker--some vanity press, some
published. The poets themselves are here as well.
I am not overly enthousiastic about my presence here, and am content to receive what
work comes into my hands. I find in my hands a single sheet, paper or card, 8 1/2 by 11.
On it is an image I know: the contract to be a counselor at a residential camp for children,
at which I was also a counselor. Not an assuming pamphlet, it is obviously a self-produced
work and not perfect.
The poem I know, however, is good--as was mine, produced in the same way, using
the contract as the design for the cover.
I see other publications; they remind of many I still have, but unknown to the
participants at this event. My collection is 25 years old. I have not, either in my dreams, or
my life, attended such events as this, in all that time.
There is the work of one poet here whose work never came into my hands, because
it--published all--was scooped up as the latest thing. I know I do not like her work. I
know it is as assuming as its professionallly published trappings. My years call upon me to
perform a role I never would have before: to shake the shit out of this woman. I do.
It is accepted. This is my part of my role, being older.
The event is over; people are departing. I catch up to the young man who wrote the
camp poem whose pamphlet he made--as a camp counselor he must be in his early 20's.
As I catch up to him, I know a great sadness, for he says he is about to give up writing, he
has no talent, or ability--not like the lionized one. I am crying, though no one sees this,
for I see myself in this young man. I beg him to continue; tell him that poetry needs him.
We part, and walk in opposite directions. As I walk, I see a youg woman. I know
instantly she is unhappy. I go up to her, and put my arm around her. This is also accepted
as part of my age.
As we walk it is clear she is disconsolate. She recounts a litany of her achievements,
good poems, what she has given to people and poetry, and received nothing--unlike the
one I shook the shit out of.
From the moment I saw this young, beautiful woman, I also knew a great sadness. My
age calls upon me to provide solace. And there is another role I must fulfill.
Never before in my dreams have I felt the calling to be or do anything, certainly not
the roles I performed here. Nor in my life did I ever think I could be anything like this,
because I could never imagine it, or until today, even dream it.