I don’t know anything. I’ve got a lot of people fooled into thinking I do, but no, I don’t know anything.
Sometimes Linda accuses me of thinking I know everything. Well, OK, maybe I do tend to blurt out answers. I hope I’m not as obnoxious as Bill Murray watching Jeopardy in Groundhog Day, but I do suffer from a mild case of expository blatheromania. “What is a stereoisomer?” “How about a four letter word for ‘wing-like’?” Linda won’t let me within fifteen feet of her when she’s working a crossword. But all this fact stuff is just trivial. I has nothing to do with knowing. I say things out loud to test myself, to see if I finally do know anything.
Nope, still don’t.
All of which is making me very nervous about being the featured reader (along with Debra Kaufman) at Walking into April this Saturday. [April 14, Barton College, 9:00 a.m., Sam and Marjorie Ragan Writing Center – be there and place your bets as to whether I know anything.] It’s not the reading part. I love to read and recite – my poetry, classic poems, a Sam Ragan or two – I’m a big ham. No, it’s the little entry on the day’s schedule at 11:00 that says “Roundtable Discussion with Griffin and Kaufman, who will present their tips on writing and reading poetry.”
Right now the anything I don’t know the most about is poetry. As in a total mistrust of whatever I possess that passes for taste, opinion, judgement, skill. I worry that at the very moment I begin to like a certain poem that proves that it’s inferior. “Man, you don’t know anything about GOOD poetry.” And those poems that appear to me as if they were compiled by a random phrase generator? “What is the matter with you, man? Where’s your head?” Maybe it’s just lack of self-confidence. Maybe it would help to beg an audience with the Wizard of Oz, who would tell me, “Nonsense, lad! You imagine you have no poetic soul, but all you need is this . . . [fill in the blank: MFA; Fellowship; Pushcart; One thousandth ‘like’ on WordPress].”
There’s only one cure. Read some more poems. Let myself get caught up in images that seem to float effortlessly from line to line like dragonflies laying eggs on the mirror of a pond. Words never before juxtaposed that now seem as if they were meant to be married since the genesis of language. A narrative so exotic and at once so universal that I suddenly realize it’s my own story this strophe has captured.
Maybe I’ll discover I don’t need to know anything.
. . . . .
Now Debra Kaufman knows something. I have sat in her presence. As she shares, the lines wind and flow like silk ribbon that seems so casual but soon binds you with no escape. Her poems may hint at a personal history at the same time they are invoking an entirely new and fantastic landscape. I walk into that landscape, look around, and find myself at home.
I am counting on you, Debra. Knowing you’ll be there on Saturday, I will stand up straight, put off all this sidling nonsense, and walk upright into April.
. . . . .
Sugar maples blaze at sunset;
leaves swoop and skirt
the chilling wind like chimney swifts.
A boy leaps into leaves,
calls to a neighbor’s Irish red,
as light falls, a cat’s white shadow,
on his grandmother’s lap.
Her hands rest there,
her grandmother’s hands,
the same boniness of wrist and knuckle,
dry fingers nearly flammable in the smoky air.
She smells ripe pears
and feels her body drawn
toward the darkness that rolls in
earlier each day.
Heat and light retreat,
and evening covers everything
except the boy, whose hair shines
silky silver light
as he tosses armfuls of color
upward, like sparks.
from The Next Moment (Jacar Press)
. . . . .
Debra Kaufman is a North Carolina poet, playwright, and educator. The Next Moment is her most recent poetry collection. Her short and full-length plays have been performed throughout North Carolina and elsewhere. Debra is the recipient of a North Carolina Arts Council playwriting scholarship and of a grant from the Central Piedmont Regional Artists Hub Program.
Sample her work at:
Kathryn Stripling Byer — Here Where I Am (blog)
. . . . .