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Vancouver International Muthafuckin’ Writers Festival

October 24, 2010

I believe I’ve cunningly programmed this post to publish itself as my class’ VIWF reading begins today. I know a lot of you humans are there in spirit, and some of you are good faithful GRSTs who have spent the last few years putting up with my impassioned rants on various topics that appear in the body of the text below. I wrote it for performance, so it looks kind of bleh on the page (I almost didn’t read it at the rehearsal because I was worried it was terrible), kind of an unstructured simplistic prose poem, but if you imagine me on a stage givin’ ‘er as you read it, that might help. Also it’s full of dactylic clausulae, if  you’re into that sort of thing, which you probably are, deep down in the unconsciousest part of your brain, if you or your ancestors come from anywhere in the western hemisphere. The end is pretty loud. Actually the whole thing is pretty loud, by Strayer standards. Crazy fun stuff happens to my voice when someone puts a microphone in front of me. It gets all smoky and confident, like the Marlboro Man (that’s a questionable-at-best simile, but it arguably gets the point across).

Anyway, today is going to be amazing, and then I’ll be selling chapbooks and getting drunk with my stagemates (totally a word), so tonight is going to be amazing too.

A friend—I should say an acquaintance—
told me one day that she didn’t like poetry.
I just gave her a look and shook my head.
But this is what I should have said:
Take it back.

Past Jay’s 99 problems and Biggie’s flashy ways,
past the midnight sun, the poppies and crosses, the burned house,
past hollow men and practical cats,
take it back.

Past Amherst, stationary Emily flecking her texts with mad dashes,
past Edinburgh, home of tim’rous beasties and red red roses,
past London’s Globe Theatre
where all the world was a stage, all the men merely players.
past Geatland, Grendel disarmed, Hrothgar’s hero hailed in the mead-hall,
take it back.

Past manic Greek, each word a pebble skipping across a creek,
past dignified Latin, each word a boulder that falls from a cliff,
bruising the skin of a still sea as it plunges through,

take it back
to a simpler time
when men were men and women were objects.

Past the first characters scratched into stone by hesitant hands,
archaic adults with the penmanship of modern preschoolers
conceiving every future poem’s implied first line:
I WAS HERE.

Past literacy and prose
to poetry’s inkless paperless Golden Age.
Sing, Muse, the smouldering rage of Achilles,
who beats Robert Frost to the two roads diverged,
who trades his life for immortal glory,
imploring us: Fear not the death of your body but that of your story.
I’m not religious,
but this I believe:
in the beginning
was the word.
And the word burrowed into the earth, broke up the soil with roots like rivers. And the word sprouted branches, climbed toward heaven, creating genealogies more complex than the craziest family’s. The word reaches up through time like a leafless tree in winter, strong and insistent. The word seeps deep into your spine’s marrow, a cultural neuron, tingling, electric. You don’t like poetry?

Take it back.

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