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Events come and go. Audiences come and go. Sometimes we wonder how we are doing, if are reaching people, providing enough to help grow the world’s literary heritage person by person. This season, we received the following letter. How humbled and grateful we are.
A thousand gratitudes have flown through my mind and I am sure that the count will grow further as the events of the day really sink in.
I get out so little that I have to select very carefully my activities beyond work and medical appointments. That you have all taken the steps to include me, to be kind toward me, and to be well yourselves around me, speaks much to the ways in which simply being our best possible selves can help others be well also.
It’s not that I felt treated more specially than anyone else, but that I felt treated as specially as everyone else. It is so easy to feel different, exotic, unusual, especially with all the luggage I carry just to get through a day that it can be off-putting for me to feel like I must explain myself just to be among others. On top of that, another attendee complimented my “entourage,” that is, my friend, Jeffrey, and the interpreters, who accompanied me through the event so I could get through.
You can tell that many of my go-to sentences about my health are well rehearsed because the social stickiness of navigating life with multiple disabilities [Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Dysautonomia, and hearing loss] gets to be old hat somewhere around the bazllionth iteration. All of this is pretty old hat for you because you are sensitive individuals with a clear idea of what it means to be aware of how we treat people, but it’s always nice to hear that our efforts and ways of being matter. It means more when we are in those life spaces where we question ourselves, when self-assuredness is particularly thin. Save this note for that moment. If it’s not enough, call me, I’ll make more. (more…)
The latest installment in our occasional series of blog posts from friends of HoCoPoLitSo. Today, we spend a few moments with Amanda Fiore, a professor/fiction writer/occasional poet, who spent a day, recently, in our midst. Here is her telling of that story:
I was sitting at my desk, scrolling through junk mail and emptying my inbox at Howard Community College, when, to my immense pleasure and surprise, I came across a mouth-dropping subject line: Michael Glaser was coming to HCC’s campus to honor the late poet, Lucille Clifton, and conduct a free poetry workshop, Telling Our Stories — Michael S.
Glaser Celebrates Lucille Clifton and Poetry Teaching! Unable to believe my eyes, I scanned the email and saw that it was being put on by an organization I had never even heard of before, HoCoPoLitSo, and was amazed when after looking into it I found out it was an arts council on which Lucille Clifton had served for many years, and that it was right here, in my own back yard!
Having been a former student of both Lucille and Michael at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, I knew immediately that the event HoCoPoLitSo was planning would be close to my heart. Michael Glaser was the first person to truly encourage me as a writer, and Lucille Clifton was a woman whose spirit and no-nonsense critiques had made me laugh, cry, and embrace my poetry with an honesty that had stayed with me the rest of my life. I immediately wrote to Michael, who returned my astonishment and excitement at being reunited after all these years, and started going through all my old journals until found the one I had kept twelve years ago in workshop with Lucille. I even found the very poem I once read in class, to which she had looked me in the eye and told me, with words I’ll never forget, “you’re hiding behind your words.” It was the hardest and most important thing I had ever heard about my poetry, and I ran out of that room hating her, sitting dramatically in the dark and crying over how mean she was until about three hours later, when I realized she had been right all along. I rewrote the poem. The result was, perhaps, the first honest poem I’d ever had the courage to write, and I never questioned her again.
Though I had thought about contacting her often over the years, by the time she passed I had still never had the chance to tell her how much she meant to me, and so the thought of sitting around a workshop table with Michael again and being given a forum through which to honor Lucille was just too perfect to seem real! But low and behold, a few weeks later there we were, sitting in a circle of tables in Duncan Hall on a cool Fall afternoon. We started off by remembering the lessons Lucille’s poems teach us all and thinking about how we could incorporate those into our own work.
Micheal was just as I remembered him — so much heart and creative energy we couldn’t help but be inspired. We read and talked and each composed a poem of our own, every one written with words that either calmed or stung the air.
Later that evening, some of us went to the reading to celebrate Lucille and were graced by a beautiful evening of poems, stories, and heartfelt emotion. By the end I not only had the opportunity to read what I had composed that day in the light of Lucille’s memory, but to meet her daughter, buy a book, and discover a group of like-minded people through HoCoPoLitSo whose energy and love for the arts mirrored my own. Afterwards, I was stunned at how satisfying and invigorating it was, with just one question repeating in my mind: how did I not know about this organization before, and why wasn’t I more involved?
One thing I know is that I will come to each of these annual Lucille events in the future, and that I will be attending many other HoCoPoLitSo events as well . . . as many as they can put on! But most of all, I am so thankful to Lucille who, even after she has passed, is still managing to connect me to poems. Thank you Lucille, I owe you so much.