I return to the world I knew before this event to find it slightly different. For one thing, the house is cleaner due to the mad rush of cleaning all last week so that we wouldn’t cringe at the spider webs on the ceiling while showing some poets laureate where they would be sleeping. For another, the sun is out, snow and rain are gone, and so are the poets laureate: the last having just left as the 19 of them sprinkle near and far in all directions. Some are home already, and some — like Peggy Shumaker and her wonderful husband, Joe, who will travel for two days to Alaska or like Lisa Starr, who may be on the long ferry from Rhode Island to her inn on Block Island — are still in process.
As for me, I alternate between horizontal and semi-horizontal (sitting in bed, typing or checking email, or simply dozing into surreal and buzzing snippets of dream). Graham Nash sings “I Am A Simple Man” on itunes, and I fee like a very simple woman listening to it. The squirrel waits on the branch to leap onto the bird feeder. The cat sleeps on a pile of blankets one of the poets used. The Christmas lights around the bedroom window droop across thumbtacks.
I’m not exactly sure what happened during these days, but I do know I hugged many people, swam with others in tandem through conversations about vocation and passion, healing and imagery, the hunger to find the right words, the necessity of listening to other, and where to find Thai food on Mass. Street. I watched audiences leaning forward, intent and awake. I heard all weather variations of poetry: sonnets about liberal arts, free verse on the damage fathers can do, elaborations on the danger of the hot dog man, and wry deconstructions of our need to be adored.
I also found friends for life: poets and poets laureate I just met, and yet they were instantly big brothers or long-lost cousins sharing a bag of ginger snaps with me late at night in the kitchen or duck spring rolls at a candlelit dinner yesterday. There will be radio broadcasts of portions of the event on Kansas and Kansas City Public Radio stations, and a video or two soon, but for now, this is what I know.
I also know whatever happened was, for me at least, extraordinary: made of running back and forth on my back deck near midnight, throwing snowballs and shovels of snow at each other; taking pictures of one another taking picture of one another; immersing myself in conversation with four women in the corner of Free State Brewery as we all ate big steak together; and squeezing into a car with poets laureate of five states to maneuver the weather of this state.
Thank you to everyone who came, listened, read, stayed, drove, fed, housed, asked questions of and provided answers for this gathering flock of blackbirds this weekend and the big sky we poured ourselves through on the way to each other.