Monday, April 23, 2007

Time, Plays, Giovanni

Time: Over a month since my last entry. 2007 is already a third gone. I'm tired a lot and the apartment not only doesn't get cleaned, but the entropy continues and I calculate that by June, I won't be able to step over the debris anymore but will have to resort to mountain climbing gear just to get from kitchen to bedroom.

Cunningham the Boycatt doesn't seem to mind. He finds the piles endlessly entertaining as he bats golf balls into, under, around them.

What's going on?

Me, I survived my first Fieldwork session as facilitator. Debuted "What Should I Do?" (my God-iest performance piece ever) with the able help of Toni Leago Valle and Misha Penton, at the closing showcase. Made my second appearance on The Front Row, Houston Public Radio's local arts program, to talk about Fieldwork (listen to us on the 4/12/07 show here: ) Wrote a few sentences of useless trash here and there. Collected a rejection letter. Put in my usual 40 hours/week at the retail master. Celebrated Easter with many trips to the church. Set in motion what will, with luck, work, and certain people's approvals, turn into a one-day literature mini-festival in November. Exchanged e-mails with a woman about conducting writing workshops in her organization's space but so far have been unable to synchronize calendars so that we can meet and hammer out details. I've fretted, groused, and whispered "thank you."

So, yeah, the last 2 months have been pretty normal.

But it's almost May. The reading/signing at West Edge Books & News in Shreveport is less than 2 weeks away (May 4, 2007, 725 Milam St. 7:00pm), which seems so unlikely. When we started talking about this (and by talking, I mean emailing) it was nearly 6 months away. I'm in the final push to get Christopher Ellis's collection of short plays out this summer. And don't get me started on all the things I'd like to do and just can't fit in.

Most days, I'd like to disappear into a cabin in the woods somewhere, just me and Cunningham. For about a week, yes, that would be nice. I think I can pencil it in for 2009. Late 2009. But I shouldn't write it in ink just yet.

For no particular reason, I quote my favorite piece of bathroom graffiti: Time flies like the wind. Fruit flies like bananas.

Plays: So I'm in the final push on Christopher E. (I just learned to insert the "E.") Ellis's collection of short plays, The Fatal Gift of Beauty and Other Plays. I had fallen behind on it but this week I feel pretty much up to speed again.

It's good stuff. That's the joy of publishing and editing work you choose. You get to spend time on it, live with it intimately as you catch spelling errors and format it into something the public will see as worthy of their hard-earned cash.

Right now, my favorite play in the collection is "The Broken Museum." That's probably because I just finished doing initial layout schtuff on it last night. It's a twisty-turny play of language. That's my blurb for it, which is why I'll be using other blurbs on the cover. Really, Christopher has crafted a play with seeming non-sequitors (and devastating sequitors) that makes me think of Tennessee Williams, had he been born a little bit later. Maybe that's just because the play takes place in New Orleans. Maybe it has no connection to Williams at all. What I'm trying to say, is that there is a pacing and a heated, roiling subtext to this text that makes me think of swealtering, gulf-coastal weather. There's sex, there's violence, there's restraint in presenting both and power in the restraint. That's a lot of abstractions for a simple play about an artist, his wife, and the street boy they draw into their web of love, infidelity. amd fantasy games. It's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf on a Streetcar Named Desire. Sort of. I'm probably misrepresenting it completely and Christopher will be emailing me gentle corrections and threats. I don't do good soundbites.

But I like this play. And the other plays in this collection. I hope some of you will check it out when it's available in July.

Giovanni: I don't have any sage words regarding the horrors at Virginia Tech. I listen to the "shouldas" and the "couldas" and mostly, I wonder whoever gets a guarantee of a safe day? Yes, we need to pay attention to one another. Yes, we need to hold interventions now and then. And no, it's not all up to legislation and "authorities" to do this. I hear all these reports about a history of antisocial behavior and clues that should have warned everyone that there was violence brewing. I've heard no reports of any attempt at reaching out to the young man, other than the most clinical, authoritarian means available. Did anyone try to befriend the loner?

I probably wouldn't have, either.

In our world of crowded lives, it's amazing how easy it is to get disconnected, isolated. It's amazing how easy it is to do it to ourselves.

But what I really want to point out about it all are the words of Nikki Giovanni. I know her name, not her work. I know she's something of a rock star among poets. I didn't know until last week that she was a professor at Virginia Tech.

Sunday morning, my pastor read her convocation address as part of his sermon. It's short and you can read it all here:

My pastor highlighted a paragraph, and I also believe it is the genius of her address. In this paragraph, she acknowledges the horror and grief of what happened on their campus and at the same time draws her listeners out of their grief to acknowledge that there is horror all around the world, that their grief is but one instance of grief throughout this big world full of hurt. Giovanni was a genius in noting such tragedies without using such obvious and politically charged examples as Iraq. She didn't use her address to make a statement on our current politics--which would have been so easy to do, and I don't know I could have resisted the temptation. But she set her own tragedy in the wider grief of the entire human family. In so doing, she tells us (or at least me) that we are not alone in our griefs. We are not the only ones who hurt, even as we most surely do hurt. It's a way of embracing our profound sadness while embracing the entire world.

My favorite line: "We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be."

Today, I am thankful that there is someone so wise and strong as Nikki Giovanni, giving words of consolation and encouragement in a senseless situation.