The other day I was working at the Canyon Grill. A man came in. He was wearing a neon shirt that said “MAINTENANCE” on the front and the back. His name was John. I was very kind to him, friendly and conversational. I try talk with all our customers, if that is something that they want, and I’m not too busy. So we started talking about how things were going. I said I was tired and had stayed up late. He said “Partying?” I said, “No, actually, I was writing.” That was how he ended up asking for my poetry…
He wanted me to read something out loud. I find that a little difficult, on the spot like that. So instead I opened up the title poem on my phone and gave it to him to read. Then I hid in the back of the kitchen for an inordinate amount of time. In fact, I think he finished his burger and probably wasn’t sure what to do with my phone, since I refused to come back. Eventually he shouted to the back,
Last week I purchased membership at a nice little place called the Independent Publishing Resource Center on SE 9th and Division. I found the website and–assuming on a whim that it would be useful and a worthwhile cause–I got the $5/month “Burrito membership.” (IMPORTANT: you do not receive a burrito with your membership, they just call it that because it’s comparably priced…huge disappointment.) They instantaneously mailed me this welcome package, which includes an “audiozine” of Portland’s most notable zine publishers reading their work. Quite a treat when I didn’t even expect to receive anything. I’m telling you, Christmas everyday in Portland. 🙂
I went up there Monday to check out what they have and a very sweet and mellow volunteer with blue hair named Morgan gave me a quick tour. The space includes a screenprinting area, a letter press area, paper cutters, bookbinders, craft supplies, printers, copiers, free GIANT-screened Mac computers, and a huge zine library. So I spent a lot of time just checking the place out. Then I opened up my half-finished poetry collection, fussed around with fonts and tried to print on some fancy paper I had purchased. Unfortunately, I don’t really know how to use Macs, and nobody working or volunteering there had any idea how to use Microsoft Word because apparently all the cool kids use Adobe InDesign (note to self: learn to be like the cool kids…). So even though I wanted to print two pages to a piece of paper, so that my book wouldn’t be gynormous, I had no success. I also had no success trying to load my fancy paper into the printer and convince it to take from that particular tray (“C’mon baby, just make it pretty for mama!”). I am not tech savvy. FMPL (f*** my poetry life)
At one point a decently amicable (though painfully zinester) person made a kind of weak attempt to help me get things going and eventually, amid all my frustration, she casually asked “What are you trying to do anyway?” Involuntarily, my eyes welled up with tears and I looked into hers, lip quivering, and said “I’m just trying to make something.” It was at THAT moment I realized that if this thing is really going to get made, I’m going to have to expose how much it means to me and be vulnerable. I need help. In fact, I need all the help I can get. I have no idea what I’m doing. I like poetry, and I care about mine. Disclaimer: I don’t fucking know how to make a bloody mother-fucking BOOK! When people read my sweet poetry jams, I just want it to be a THING. A TANGIBLE, durable, moderately sodding professional, and beautiful looking THING (I get British when I curse). Something that at least ONE person will take home and put in a special place and feel warm inside about it. Something someone will want to sit with under a quilt on a rainy day with the window open and a pot of tea on the stove. And then they’ll just curl up on the couch and think about it for a minute and feel all lovely.
I must have conveyed that pretty clearly because she started apologizing uncomfortably and saying she wished she could help. It’s ok zinester with the unhygenic smell cloud around you. I will get all the help I need and I couldn’t even stand close enough to get help from you anyway. Plus, it was a learning experience to unreservedly express my creative desire to a stranger. It was pretty dramatic. I like caring about something so much. I just ended up printing on regular paper in regular size (stupid ugly 8 1/2 by 11!). Then I went to use the bookbinding machine which sweet, mildly naive Morgan demonstrated for me. When I tried to use it, someone in charge stopped me in my tracks and informed me that you had to be trained to use it and Morgan just didn’t know that. But it just so happened that there was a bookbinding class happening two days later. It was fifty bucks, so I signed up.
And that is what I did tonight after work. It was incredibly fun. I made all these tiny little notebooks with covers made out of old National Geographic magazine pages I tore out. The machine is big and old and funky. It heats up glue and spreads it on the edges of the pages and then presses them into the cover and pinches them tight. Quite the toy for me. The paper cutters are also giant and old. I think one of them was actually an antique. I should have taken a picture.
Anyhow, now I know how to bind and I have the authority. So that’s something. If I could just get trained for InDesign (“It’s basically what everybody uses.”) and figure out the bloody printer/copier, I might actually be able to make an actual book… soon…
At Canyon Grill, a father said, “My favorite part of the year is happening right now. At this moment!”
I said, “How come?”
The father said, “Because the daphnes are blooming. It’s the first flower of the year to bloom. And they smell like the milk leftover in a bowl of Trix.”
I said, “That sounds wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled them before.”
A few minutes later, his little son called my name and I came toward him.
“Pam,” the little boy said, “This is for you.” And he held a daphne up to me. I received it with a heartfelt smile. The flowers were so tiny. I held it to my nose. It did smell like a the milk leftover in a bowl of Trix. I put it in the kitchen, on the clean dish rack.
All through the night, a few times an hour I picked it up and put it against my nose. When the night was over I put the stem in the right pocket of my black peacoat and the flower sat just above the pocket close to my belly. It stayed with me as my friend drove me over to the train. It went with me on the train. On the bus, I twirled it between my fingers and breathed it in. I looked at the spinning flower, rolling the stem between my fingers and I gazed out the window, serene. As I approached my apartment, I smelled the daphne once more and then laid it on the bench designated for giving things away.
Last night Daniel Peccia welcomed me into his fanciful home where he lives with a beautiful, loving family that includes two adorable pups and an aloof but friendly cat. He gave me a tour of his pottery studio. I have to say this is probably the coolest thing I’ve had the opportunity to do in a long time.
He showed me his kiln and all his materials, as well as the space where he selects and studies poetry that has been submitted to him, where the clay dries, where it gets rolled out, carved and imprinted into. He explained about the different ways to add the colors and the glaze. The time each part of the process takes. I mean, I have to say I could not have been more fascinated by the intricacies of this art.
As if the night could get any better, he then showed me what he has done with my title poem. This is the kind of stuff that makes me wig out with joy. He has said before that pulling pottery out of the kiln is kind of like Christmas. It’s full of surprises and you can never know quite how it will turn out. That is exactly what the entire night was like. ❤ And watching him pull each piece out one by one and set it on the table, covered in my words, made from the beauty of his clay, was indescribable and powerfully motivating. I looked slowly and closely at each one as if I had never seen a piece of pottery in my life. And I still do so. Everything around each piece gets blurry and each little caress of color reaches out.
I will be sharing his pieces over the next few days. One at a time so as not to detract from their individual beauty with the sheer QUANTITY I took home. 🙂
I walked from his house to another friend’s place and then from there to my house with a bag full of about 25 lbs of pottery. It was over three miles total. I have to say my arms could not have been more tired, but I could not have been more grateful. I almost wanted to keep on carrying it with me wherever I go…
The first Monday of every month there is a spoken word poetry radio program on KBOO called Poetic License. It airs at 10pm, 90.7 fm, in Portland. It features spoken word poetry from local poets as well as guest poets from the world over. You can also listen to it right on the website. This is just one of a wide variety of cool and informative programs on KBOO. I’m really glad I met my friend Sam on an airplane to Chicago. I didn’t even know about KBOO before I met him. It also turns out that he’s epically smart and awesome in general, but I digress.
Talking Earth is a radio program that used to air on Mondays from 10-11pm on KBOO, 90.7 fm, in Portland. You can listen to old episodes on the website.
I also found this awesome List of Regular Readings in the Area on the KBOO website, which is SUPER helpful to me. I’ve been trying to find out where poetry is happening in Portland and I haven’t found much information. So this website is pretty much raining manna on me from heaven. I’m not sure that it’s up to date. But I found a lot through it and I’ve used it that way.