I find myself wanting to pour over their words and make them as much a part of myself as the oxygen coursing through my veins to escape, ultimately, over my tongue as breath.
I first fell in love with Sandra Beasley's poetry when I was originally accepted to American University's MFA program. Ironically, I had accepted the invitation to join the program, all but settled on an apartment, bought the required readings for what would have been my first graduate poetry workshop ... and then things fell apart. I never went. (Though I still get the emails, and though I've apparently graduated in absentia twice, and though I am currently approved to register for classes (again).) One of the first books I purchased was Beasley's Theories of Falling, and I remember distinctly thinking that if this was the sort of poetry I would be reading, when it came to writing I might be in over my head. When a poet describes tomatoes as "Red eggs that never hatch" there is a sting of jealousy that never goes away, and soon you begin to know that what you once thought jealousy has evolved into love.
Terrance Hayes, I was introduced to as a graduate student at Northern Arizona University. We read his Wind in a Box in my first poetry workshop--I've been infatuated ever since. I remember joking with some of the other girls in the class that we would like to make our way to Pittsburgh and confess our love, and never mind that he was already married, this was destiny. At my first ever AWP Conference, in Washington, DC, I'm pretty sure I made it to every reading and session he was part of. I stole a friend's copy of Lighthead so I could get it signed. (When I say "stole" I mean I had, by then, run out of money to buy any more books, and had forgotten my copy of Wind in a Box at home, and my friend Ben offered me his book and I accepted.) But what I think we were--or, to speak only for myself, I was really saying was that there was something in his words that I could not put into ones of my own, and so the best way to express it (at the time) was to ask my professor, "Do you know him? Can you tell him I love his work? Do you have his address?"
And when it comes to poet's addresses, I would like to let any reader rest assured that I would never actually do anything there--and my proof of that is Nikky Finney. I only just "discovered" her work, but now I find her everywhere. When I finally wandered onto her official website I noticed that, on her contact page, there is actually an email address to "email Nikky directly." I have been looking at it for the past two or three days. I want desperately to take this treasure and use it, but for the life of me I can't imagine what I would write outside of:
I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE YOU.
Here's another confession: I think poet crushes are healthy. In an interview with Oxford American Nikky Finney talks about falling in love with the work of Lucille Clifton and finding "great support for all the things I wanted to do with my own work in her work." I resonate with this not only because I sometimes want to say the same thing about her work and my own, but also because I believe in that important act of poets finding support in other poets. Call it mentorship if you will, or simply admiration, but I choose to call it love and poet crushing. There is something wonderful, for a shy poet, in being able to "converse" with the writers you love through their books--it is almost like sitting down with a cup of tea in your hand and watching them lift their own cups to their own lips and knowing that when those cups are pulled away all your answers can--and will--be answered.
And when it comes to the power of those crushes, well, I want to call it hope--hope that if I can be brave, I can speak to the poet who, now, speaks into my own work, just as she spoke, then, to the poet who spoke into her own, and see in some way that circle come back to promise.
|Who is your "poet crush"?|
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