The book launch on November 5 was a rousing success. With a standing-room-only crowd on the third floor of the downtown library, I and eight other local authors read from our newly-published books. We schmoozed, met friends and family, met each other’s friends and family, and signed copies of our work. Technical Solace continues to be available for purchase, from the publisher and now also at Ann Arbor’s own Bookbound, a wonderful independent book shop on the north side. And…yes…Technical Solace is now on Amazon. If you like that sort of thing.
If you happen to attend, or sell your work at, Ann Arbor’s annual Tiny Expo arts and crafts fair, my book will be for sale there too.
The reading itself was a performance much like any other. My last name was mispronounced; the amplification and acoustics were so-so; the crowd was supportive and I was nervous as a flea. Usually I am less nervous for public speaking than for public piano playing, because the act of speaking is so much easier than playing an instrument. But reading my poems to an audience bigger than my dog was a new, intense experience. My take on the crowd’s reaction was that most did not have previous exposure to poetry reading and didn’t know quite what to make of it. But they tried. I’ll post what I read here, with a synopsis of my introduction to each poem.
Since I always like to know where the titles of books come from, I started with the book’s title poem. This is simply about learning to play the piano, trying to get good. (I am still trying to get good.)
|It was years before the scales became|
|like old jeans. The ease snuck|
|up on me, then there it was, keeping|
|me meditative in the afternoon. Sharps|
|made seams in smooth cloth, flicked|
|my fingers up and back. Those edges|
|led to Mozart, the iffy son.|
|after, an unexpected second child|
|so squally I’d give up, surprised anytime|
|docility spread a smile. Tantrums|
|made me run outside, away from the|
|crying. But I always came back. Keys|
|are my landscape, cool barefoot|
|pedals like stones.|
This next poem has a bit of a backstory. As you may remember, before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage equality, we were in a kind of limbo where gay and lesbian couples could be legally married in one state and not in the next. There was a brief window of time when it was legal in Michigan, but no one knew how long that would last. So, at the time, lots of couples, some of my friends among them, rushed down to City Hall to be married while they could–not knowing if those marriages would be legally upheld, or if so, then for how long. The law was in a state of flux. As was the weather: early spring in Michigan is a precarious time, and we don’t know from one day to the next (or one hour to the next) whether we’ll have beautiful warm weather or more blizzards. I wanted to be hopeful with my friends, but it is hard to hope in the face of persistent backlash. Thus it was out of feelings of ambivalence–perhaps, unsupported optimism–that this poem came about.
April, Ann Arbor, 2014
|It resembles spring, that’s as good as I can give you.|
|It’s not snowing at the moment, and the ban on marriage|
|lifted last night. Temporarily, say. It’s still cold|
|and windy out there. My row of tulips, sheltered halfway|
|behind boxwoods, is getting intrepidly up but tomorrow|
|the old governor might stop the process again; we’ll find|
|discouraged flowers ice-rimed and separated pairs of men. On|
|the road, asphalt looks like gold. We wait to change tires, clothes,|
|to hold out hope, until sure the sleet has gone, fled in drops and shiny|
|rivulets down drains tucked under curbs. We halt, wary of pride, Michigan|
|tough and winter tender, hoisting signs: Love is love, as jays meander|
|back to the trees they dwell in. Bold nature says, “of course I’m here,|
|where else?” Each frail fellow creature without a house or car, feral,|
|fearless as humans wish to be. We move from desk to store to bedroom,|
|from van to school to kitchen, wincing to be caught between. We move|
|from habit to decision back to routine, until today. Maybe just|
|this day, a line at the county clerk’s office and flowers in women’s hands.|
|The freezing-out cannot be ended, it’s too unlikely, I don’t trust|
|the reprieve. But for now. When my boot goes through|
|the ice, not over. When one bit of good news is on the radio every hour.|
|When we linger on the pavement around the store, when mail carriers|
|again are glad they hired on, rain and color stand a chance, chapped lips|
|heal and debates resume, when the art class sees the jay, the branch, picks|
|up pencils and moves outside for drawing, it resembles spring, resembles|
After I read the above, someone in the audience uttered an audible “huh.” That was my favorite reaction. As I was signing books, the only person to approach my table whom I didn’t know introduced herself as a music teacher (she was wearing the obligatory eighth notes scarf) and said she loved all of the music references in the poems. This woman is my ideal audience.
Since the book launch, several friends have sent me photos of my book as it’s arrived at their homes near and far. I’ve walked into a client’s house to see my book on her living room table. I’ve been told that certain poems made people cry. Thus far, I like the response. Though it’s odd to think of something I created making people cry as a good thing.
I will be holding a solo reading on January 13 at Bookbound (more info to come). I plan to read more from Technical Solace as well as some new work. Come by for some tea and onomatopoeia, some cake and enjambments.