RITA, ANNE, JEANETTE & JILL: I am going to riff on a entry started by Cherryl Floyd-Miller on her blog about poet Rita Dove. Cherryl was fanatical about Rita, which is another one of those things CF-M and I have in common, but has let her fanatacism settle into admiration. I think these feelings are the same as having a big crush. I've let all my writing crushes settle into close friendships, except maybe for Anne Sexton and Jeanette Winterson. I still get all flushed and weak whenever I read Sexton or a new Winterson novel is published (Lighthousekeeping is already out in the UK and coming to the US in 2005..it's brilliant). Their command of the English language is strong, unafraid, sensual, flirty, and sexual. Sexton and Winterson are fearless when it comes to exposing a soft underbelly, even when the knives are ready to carve up their fragile hearts.

A friend of Cherryl's said Rita Dove's poetry was boring, and I must admit I thought some of her work was uninspiring. However, when Rita hits the mark, she knocks the ball out of the park. She taught me a valuable lesson in form and image, but like Cherryl, I've found my own voice and style. I always forgo form to achieve a better image. I'll never be a "formalist" poet, that's for sure. Still, there is one Rita Dove poem that I still carry as a good luck charm and touchstone. I still read it at open mics when I'm sick of my own work.

First Kiss

And it was almost a boy who undid
the double sadness I'd sealed away.
He built a house in a meadow
no one stopped to admire,

and wore wrong clothes. Nothing
seemed to get in his way.
I promised him anything
if he would go. He smiled

and left. How
to recreate his motives,

as a gasp? Where else
to find him , counter-rising
in me, almost a boy....

There is something so beautifully melancholy and true about these lines. My work has always leaned toward the dark side of life and love, although my new work has a bit more spring in its step, even a smile or two. I wouldn't be a poet without Rita's First Kiss, so I always give her a free pass when she writes something that doesn't make my brain and heart hum like this one does.

So, I'm driving home from work today, passing by this old gas station on Boulevard at Edgewood that should have been torn down years ago, but remains an eyesore on a corner that is in the midst of a true renaissance. On the dilapidated walls, there is a neverending parade of posters for the latest movies or albums being released. When I was stopped in traffic, I realized I've never seen anyone putting these up. Do they still slap 'em on the wall and spread some kind of paste over them to make them stick? I need to look into this. Anyway...the walls of this old gas station are thick with layers of these posters. I can still see part of Ethan Hawke's head peering out from one of the Before Sunset posters that was stuck there. It's never just one poster, it's for or five in a row or stacked on top of each other. I wonder if the people hired to put up the posters do it at night to avoid getting arrested for trespassing on private property? Do they get paid by the poster? I wonder how much they get paid in general? I digress again.

Today, there was a row of posters for Jill Scott's new album, Beautifully Human: Words & Sounds Vol. 2, which is coming out next week. The album cover (and the poster on that old gas station wall) is a photograph of a young Jill, missing her baby teeth, hair in braids, with yellow ribbons. She looks infinitely older than the seven or eight year old she must be in that photo, not unhappy, but inquisitive and ready to sing. Now, I loves me some Jill Scott. This is a musical event for me, right up there with Bjork releasing her new album the same day. Who Is Jill Scott? Words & Sounds Vol. 1 is still a favorite on my CD player. Whether she's getting ready to cut a rival (You betta back down, before you get smacked down, you betta chill) or walking with a lover (Let's take a long walk around the park after dark...find a spot for us to spark), Jill has got it going on. I always get a big smile on my face when Jill comes on. But if you want true sexy soul, just listen to He Loves Me:

You love me especially different every time,
you keep me on my feet, happily excited
by your cologne, your hands, your smile
your intelligence.

That's one of the best sex songs ever. Take this from the voice of experience. Go on, Jill. Bring that new sound. I'm ready for part two.


BLUE said…
CMK: have i told you in the last week how much i appreciate you? affirmation comes from the loveliest places through you. add jill scott to the growing list of our commonalities ... and i can't wait for our hot date in a couple of weeks! (can i cut up?) light! ~BLUE
Anonymous said…
Great post! I love the imagery of the gas station and the posters. I hope you're keeping all of this stuff in your mind for poems, novels, etc.

Teamaster said…
Formalism is coitus interruptus. I know of an excellent poet who was depressed because college had ruined her freedom, raised formalism to divine status, and choked the honesty and life out of her work - despite its impressive control. (I told her to screw all that crap and write some explosive poetry instead.)

Great post all around, Collin. - David

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