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Monday, May 25, 2015

Eating violets:Remembering a Poetry slam from a Month Past


For weeks, violets bloomed everywhere in Barnesville.

A month ago I attended a poetry slam, and that might as well be an eon past in a wider culture structured to rush ceaselessly onward. We live in torrenting rapids, which threaten to smash to bits anything that can't keep pace. We hurtle into the latest event, temporal proximity lending to whatever is newest a heightened, if false, importance. 

I say this as a way to note I am very late in writing about this slam. I recognize, however, that endless haste is a form of illness and will chose to live in the eternal Now, in which a poetry reading outweighs events much closer to us in time and (seeming) importance.

At the poetry slam, I was impressed by Lee Tran's recitation of Brenna Twohy's  "In which I do not fear Harvey Dent." 


Lines from that poem, which likens coping with mental illness  to being a superhero,  still leap out at me: 

"you have never seen me out of costume,would not even recognize me outside of this armor
 ...

When you have mental illness, society tells you your only power is your invisibility.
Tells you that they would save you if only they could see you,
but of course they cannot see you,
of course they will not save you, no matter how bright you sew your cape.
Invisibility is not a superpower,
it is the best weapon of a broken system
desperate to make their streets look clean
... 
I know what it is to fight monsters.I know how strong an ordinary human has to be." 

Joe Kingery read a poem called "A New Addiction Please" by John Brehm, which spoke eloquently to how upside-down our society is, asking why, instead of oil, we can't become addicted to the sun and the wind. Lichen Yang recited William Blake's "To See a World,"  going beyond the often quoted opening: 

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour

to the darker condemnation of human cruelty:

A dog starvd at his Masters Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State 
A Horse misusd upon the Road
Calls to Heaven for Human blood 
....

to the observation

Joy & Woe are woven fine 
A Clothing for the soul divine 
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine 
....

to

Some to Misery are Born 
Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight 
Some are Born to sweet delight 
Some are Born to Endless Night.

    I learned at almost the same time as the poetry slam that humans can eat violets and that the leaves are high in vitamins A and C. For weeks, the violets were interspersed with the grass, and I added the bright flowers to salads. They tasted mild, faintly sweet, and seemed like a metaphor for the poetry slam: With the seemingly fragile and ephemeral, we are touched and fed.
  

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