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Occasionally at Lighthouse I’ll target an innocent writer type with what seems, superficially, a reasonable request: Could you blog this and send it to me? This is a way to ensure, quite unwittingly, that I’ll never hear from that person again, especially if they agree to do it. I exaggerate, yet I understand completely. It’s hard to “blog.” Even the name implies a kind of slapdash quality, an “I’m just logging the random flow of my brain, complete with witty hyperlinks!” When you’re actually a word person, letting go of the process used to compose and tirelessly rework a piece of fiction, literary nonfiction, or poetry, allowing the product to be loose and even more imperfect than usual–that can rankle, even unconsciously. So I was thrilled the other day to open an e-mail and see a note from poet Theresé Wenham that began, “I finally wrote that blog you asked of me several years ago…”
After you enjoy this one, I think several more reluctant bloggers are chiming in this week. Can’t wait!
CONVERSATIONS WITH THE INNER GEEK by Theresé Wenham
A couple of years ago Andrea Dupree asked me to write a little blog about a poetry workshop I was taking. I immediately replied, “Of course!” No big deal. The workshop was going well, but the absolute dread of writing prose mounted until I finally gave in. “Sorry Andrea, I can’t do it.” Then, the part of my mind which rationalizes all failures into logical explanations did its job perfectly, and I said, well, next time maybe I’ll know what to do.This blog is not at the request of Andrea, and has nothing to do with any workshop I’m currently taking. It’s about following through and it is about gratitude. Lit Fest is coming up, and as it approaches I am reminded of what brought me back to Lighthouse as a regular fixture at gatherings and workshops.
I took my first workshop (it was terrifying) in 2001 with Mike Henry. Every couple of years, I’d take another one. Eight years later, I attended my first Lit Fest, mostly as an opportunity to socialize outside of my regular mother/wife roles, where my identity is inextricably shared with others. I attended the free opening party, a couple of salons, the readings, the Henry/Ransick poetry weekend intensive workshop, and the closing party at Jay K. and Emily S.’s beautiful home.
At the opening party I felt reserved, yet hopeful, as I trolled the unfamiliar crowd for the literary connections I craved. I fell into a conversation in the Ferril kitchen with a writer that changed everything. We talked about craft, projects, inspiration, and backgrounds, moving between topics effortlessly as though we were both bursting to share our literary lives with another empathetic listener.
I went home and told my husband I had spent the whole evening talking about writing, and no one had wanted to change the subject. This was mind-blowing, a total game-changer. I’d found out something I didn’t actually know about myself: I liked to talk, a lot, as it turned out, about writing. This writer turned out to be Cara Lopez Lee, and her book, They Only Eat Their Husbands, was picked up at the end of that Lit Fest.
Yesterday I listened to Ira Glass’s This American Life episode on “Conventions.” People behave differently when they are in large groups with admittedly similar interests. Not all behavior that emerges from these settings is desirable, but often conventions present an opportunity to let the inner geek shine, to speak openly open things most people find boring, to elaborate into the minutiae about things (such as syllables and scansion, in my case), and to have the kind of audience that isn’t being introduced to a new concept and instead has a conversation about it.
This is what happened with Cara, and what happens every single time I am at Lighthouse. The identities of mother and wife become secondary to the poet. I love letting my inner geek shine. Every time I’m allowed to experience another aspect of poetry, through workshops, guests like Thomas Lux and Mary Karr, Draft Reading Shows, fellow poets, salons or conversations, my love grows deeper and wider. I love talking to my fellow writers. I love social gatherings focused on literary accomplishments. I love being supportive. I’m so grateful for the people at Lighthouse who allow writing, literature, poetry, expression, and creation to fill their precious time–because we all benefit.
Now when I go to a Lighthouse party, I can’t turn around without knowing someone to talk to. Yet, I often end up meeting someone new, who’s new to Lighthouse, and they are just as eager as I was to let out their inner word geek. They don’t know it yet, but it’s who they are. I’ve gotten so brazen in my literary skin, I’ll even attempt to write prose.
Thanks for this, Theresé! Please don’t be reluctant to join us at the seventh annual Lit Fest, June 1 to 16. There are still some workshops open, but the readings are free and open to all comers, and we’d love to see you there.