A few exciting things happened these last few days:
– poetry editors Erin Keane, Drew Morse, and Sonya Taaffe at Strange Horizons have accepted my poem “Sea-Change” for publication! How thrilled am I?! Thrilled! Not only are they themselves an accomplished group of poets, but they’ve also published works by Rose Lemberg, Anne Sheldon, Mike Allen, Jo Walton, and so many other talented writers.
– tonight I heard poet, activist, teacher Nikki Giovanni give a talk thanks to the UW’s Distinguished Lecture Series. Wow, what an amazing woman. Her clarity, passion, joy, intensity, knowledge… just, wow. I laughed, cried, scribbled notes… and afterward, I biked into the night with a renewed sense of hope and purpose. And duty.
Here’s a few quotes I’d like to share:
– This is the year two-thousand and twelve. I think being alive is a good idea. I want to recommend it, I really do.
– Nobody beats the machine. John Henry couldn’t beat the machine.
– I was so upset, I wrote a poem.
– I urge you not to think of success, but to think of truth.
Nikki spoke on so many topics. And like any intelligent, creative, engaged human being she wove these stories and anecdotes of seemingly disparate topics into a cohesive, moving, meaningful, urgent lecture. And there was poetry. Of course.
She spoke of the importance of a quality education and the difference it can make in an individual’s life, the importance of art education, women’s rights and reproductive freedom, Pullman porters and A. Philip Randolf, John Glenn and black women humming when faced with death and fear, eating dinner alone and watching tv, and she spoke of grandmothers as the hidden person of the 60’s – the hidden voice behind the civil rights movement telling their grandchildren “nobody is better than you” even though the kids were being spat on, beaten, worse… and who is going to say to their grandmother, “no, we couldn’t do it” after these women had survived so much, had thrived, built families and communities, and loved and worried and lived their lives… exactly. That’s how you move forward despite great odds. And the civil rights movement did just that.
And I think that’s what artists are charged with, too, to be true to themselves and humanity and create the best art they can create. Which is to say, not to give up, to keep fighting the good fight. Change the world for the better, do not let it conform you. Nikki said: “What you can do is what you believe in and not wind up saying ‘I wish I had.'” That’s one of the times I cried. I might question myself and my abilities as a writer, but it is what I believe in, it is where my passion lies. I can’t give up. I can’t go back and say “I couldn’t do it.”
Nikki said: “I believe the Universe is just.” Well, I don’t know if she said “Universe” or “universe”; regardless, the Universe is awesome and it is what we have and are a part of. As Carl Sagan said, we are a way for the universe to experience itself. That’s a duty, too.