...In-between sets from poet Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow

September 7, 2013

Deluge By Any Other Name

The rain hurtled down sideways yesterday. I had concerns that last night's poetry reading might be cancelled, or worse, no audience members show up, or worse yet, the poets themselves unable to get to the venue. As most folks know, it hardly ever rains in the Phoenix-area desert. I was forced to utilize something called an "umbrella" to get from my home to the car, and subsequently, from the parking lot to the bookstore. Do you know that getting into a car when it's pouring rain came back to me "just like that"? As I opened the car door I remembered --  ooh, I have to use this contraption like a shell over my head, and bend it ever-so-slowly downward as I back in to the driver's seat. It's funny how those maneuvers you don't even remember you've forgotten come back to you.

At the bookstore, four of us were in the seating area in front of the small stage where the poets would read. We're all long friends, and laughed together wondering if we'd end up reading to each other for the night's festivities. Pinna Joseph, my dear friend, and Changing Hands' Marketing Director, was smiling at Shawnte Orion as he was telephoning people in an attempt to rally the troops. David Chorlton was busy reading a poem of William Pitt Root's, from his marvelous new book Strange Angels. It was 6:45PM and the reading was set to commence at 7. Yikes.

It would've been humorous: large capacity, rows and rows of chairs, just us four, but we were so desirous for Pamela Uschuk and Bill (yes, he did insist I call him that) Pitt Root to arrive, safe and sound, in such unfixed, tumultuous weather. Suffice to say, by 7 they'd arrived, with Melissa Pritchard, and by 7:15, in just fifteen simple minutes, they were about to read to, somehow, a packed house. The weather had broken; the crowd had gathered. I felt like the happiest woman in the audience, to be surrounded by good friends, and a duo of exemplary poets. Our little group sat in the front row, so I didn't twist around to snap a photo of the audience, but it was full and enthusiastic, and we were not disappointed.
Pinna Joseph and David Chorlton

Shawnte Orion, rallying the Valley
Pamela Uschuk
 Pamela read selections from her books of poetry, and a memoir she is currently writing. From her American Book Award collection, Crazy Love, she sweetly read a poem I'd requested, "The Horseman of the Crass and Vulnerable Word." Her poetry is truthful and mindful and penetrating. It's simply a joy to watch a master craftswoman at work. To speak of her reading from her memoir would set me to tears to tell you -- her survival and triumph over ovarian cancer, and the roadway she and Bill were obliged to walk down is something indescribable. I await the publication of her memoir, impatiently. She imparts faith in poetry, in travails of the temporal, and the overcoming of them with grace. Honored. Honored to have met her.

William Pitt Root
 These days one can find so many articles, or essays, or commentaries from the world of the literary arts written by 20- or 30-something's that are rife with a kind of disgust or downright maliciousness for the process of writing great work, and, significantly, maintaining humility in the formula of being a writer. I wish it were compulsory for younger poets and writers, including university students in the written arts, to immerse themselves in the works of contemporary adult poets like Pamela Uschuk and William Pitt Root. These younger writers would learn a thing or two about decorum and good form, evenly, for the act of writing itself and the act of presenting oneself in coat of decency. It would constitute a great measure in informing the rest of the world outside of the written arts just who we are who actually perform the business, the craft and the art of it. And we would no longer have to be embarrassed by the contingency of snide-casters and naysayers. If only they'd learn from someone like William Pitt Root. His reading was majestic, yet fully embracing. I highly recommend you pick up the virtuoso volumes of poetry he's written. 

These people are remarkable. They are our best role models.

Speaking of role models, I've heard of a superhero who doesn't much care for the limelight, but will help anyone, absolutely anyone, out of a jam in a heartbeat. He comes from a faraway planet called We'd Like To Remain Anonymous, But Our Hearts Are Huge. Shrewdly, I've captured his musings for you. Thankfully, The Los Angeles Review partook of the telling of them. And, hopefully, you will pre-order their Fall 2013 issue here.

Please support this fine literary journal, and the poets and writers in this issue, by purchasing a year's subscription. You can share it with family and loved ones, neighbors and friends, when you've finished reading it. The written word needs all the help it can get. Particularly to you folks who are not in the literary arts, please do pick up a copy. You'll most likely find yourself enjoying the experience of reading excellent work by writers who've worked hard to hone their craft, and who would be thoroughly appreciative to you for supporting their efforts. You might also find yourself tapped on the shoulder by an unassuming superhero.

And so it rained last night. And the dust of the desert washed away and everything was bright green, and shiny, and I felt so happy. Umbrella: like riding a bicycle. 

It's the things that are ingrained that remind you who you are.