Tuesday, October 09, 2007

litgarden, steady as she knows

Litquake is rolling and roiling again, the big annual literary festival of the Bay Area for eight years strong. I appreciate this kind of community. And I'm attending select events with some smart comrades. But I've also climbed to a certain solitary lookout, a place from which I don't need so much to integrate with the local literatiDave Eggers, Gail Tsukiyama, Josh Kornbluth, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Daniel Handler, Beth Lisick, Peter Plate. I've seen and heard these authors read multiple times throughout their circuit careers. And I am equally content, deeply so, just to make my mushroom risotto, wait for the rain, and sink my heart into a quiet reading of Svoboda's Tin God.

Having the space and energy to spend time aloneas alone and awake as I have ever beenis a profound luxury. Engaging a written work makes different demands than film, dance, visual art, or music, and I feel it's resonant in inimitable, vital ways.

I couldn't replicate my pleasures for you here; to start with, I can't put Tin God up online, nor can I sit you down this instant with a cloth napkin and a hot meal (though I always make extra and you'd find yourself welcome). But I can give you a gift you will not get at Litquake, a chance to read what you otherwise may not, a work by a tremendous poet you won't find on this year's panels, but should. It's by Steven Rood, copied here from my kitchen wall where it's nailed up, written in huge red letters on butcher paper:


Why would we want to get drunk,
staggering around and forgetting our loneliness,
if, in the fourteen billion years of this universe,
we have only this time to experience it?

Why would we want to numb up and watch TV,
if, in June only of each year, a particular
lily, the Calochortus tiburonensis, blooms
inconspicuously on one mountain
made of hot serpentine rock?

Why would we voluntarily give up
witnessing its nectaries glisten under fine
hairs in the flower's throat?

Why would we let ourselves become zombies,
who resemble us almost perfectly,
except for consciousness and delight?

Why would we not choose to transform
our suffering into Lamentations and Psalms?
Or into Schubert's E flat trio?

Why would we not become gardeners
if we can still remember the flower
that first made us swallow hard?


A friend and dear author of mine once hassled me for a hermitty stage I went through. She said, "Elizabeth, we all do this. We love and hate each other. You're not unique in that." Though I didn't like being told I was not a mold-cracking malcontent, I knew she was right. And ultimately, after the post above, I rumbled along with everyone else at Litquake. How could I not? To start with, look at this shot of the Bay Bridge views that I took while driving in to the Lesser Evil readings. Not a bad rush hour. Can the sky please stay this way forever?

See you at the Litcrawl. Of course.