You might think I’ve been slacking, abandoning poetry for something more pressing, urgent, “real”. Nah. Poetry takes precedence. We were attending the Austin International Poetry Festival (AIPF). If you’re looking for a fun fest this is the one. First of all, Austin’s a great city – funky, sophisticated, laid-back, bustling – a city of contrast, diversity and charm. The festival reflects these traits in its participants, head-liners, workshops and readings. The only problem lies in the sheer abundance of stuff from which to choose. I took my laptop, but I only opened it once, which is why you might have noticed Days 11 & 12 carried the same date.
As always, I was blown away by the courage and gallantry of those who write with heart’s blood as their ink. I took a great workshop from poet Rod Stryker on the importance of exploring and accepting the ‘dark side’ of our own psyches. As he says, the first step is to free the trauma from wherever inside ourselves we’ve imprisoned it. But what fascinates me, both in my own life and the lives of others, is how to use that material; how to explore, craft and hone it into a work of art where the universal aspect of one’s story takes precedence over the personal pain. Once such a poem is created and the poet voices it with passion, clarity and precision, she/he can soften hearts, shatter assumptions, inspire aspirations and sometimes move mountains.
AIPF gifted us with two outstanding poets of this ilk, Candy Royalle and Susy Q. Smith What makes these women extraordinary is the combination of heart and intelligence that informs both their poetry and their body language. Of course charisma and chutzpah to perform are not vouchsafed to everyone. The wonderful thing about poetry is that even the most diffident, shy, mumbling poet reading from a paper napkin pulled from the back pocket of his jeans can electrify us with the poignancy of his words.
Which brings us back to NaPoWriMo and the call to write. After spending three days immersed in the power and passion of words, I couldn’t wait to get home, get caught up and continue this adventure with you all. May the force be with us.