Saturday, July 22, 2006

Never fear: the world spins nightly toward its brightness and we are on it

Last night, Kim, my husband, and I attended the 15th annual Squaw Valley Community of Writers poetry reading in San Francisco. Poets Robert Hass, Harryette Mullen, Sharon Olds, C.D. Wright, and Dean Young read their poetry at the First Unitarian Universalist Center. This benefit raises money for the Poetry Scholarship Fund, enabling talented writers to attend the week-long poetry writing workshop held each year in Squaw Valley, California. Haas's wife Brenda Hillman also read one poem as a surprise guest of the evening.

Young began his reading with an explanation, "As poets we all have to make choices. I have to choose between Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. I choose Sean Penn." He then read his hilarious Sean Penn Anti-Ode which met with uproarious laughter and applause. Young commended Sharon Olds for writing her moving and eloquent letter to Laura Bush in which she refuses to attend a luncheon in DC as an act of opposition to war in Iraq.

CD Wright, who gave us permission to use the lovely epigraph for Carla Kihlstedt's essay The Late Bloomer in TMQ, read a few of her poems and then told a joke about a farmer and salesman.
Here is the epigraph in TMQ from her poem Crescent
Never fear: the world spins nightly toward
its brightness and we ae on it.

It is with great pleasure that I attend these readings each year (seven years now) for it is an opportunity to see some of my favorite poets like Sharon Olds and Galway Kinnell. I still remember the first time I read Sex Without Love in college and what a profound effect her poem made on me.

Sharon Olds waxed nostalgic for the innocent days when the men and women's tubs were separated at Esalen. She recalled one day hearing a beautiful voice coming over the wall- it was Joan Baez bathing. A prolific writer, she always has two to three books ready for publication so most of what she read last night was new and yet unpublished work. She read a poem about observing the fragility and silliness of men's penises while bathing at Esalen and another about tampons. As shocking and often disturbing as many find her work, she has also written poems of such depth and tenderness about her husband and her two children. These are poems of domestic bliss- poems about lovemaking, bathing her newborn son, and watching her children grow up. I believe she deserves a Nobel Prize for Literature.

On Thursday, July 27, the poets will read again at 8:15 pm at the Olympic Village Lodge, 1901 Chamonix Place off the SV Main Road. For more public events held in Squaw, click here for a PDF.


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