Yesterday I somehow mentioned the name Pablo Neruda & was met with a chorus of owls. My students not knowing who Neruda was gave me a headache, the Victorian kind that calls for a fainting couch some bonbons an open window a breeze and a book of fiction. It was the same feeling I had when they told me they didn’t know who Prince was. I suppose it’s the same feeling visiting writers feel when they ask if my students know this poet or that memoirist. Why do we feel so deeply insulted when writers don’t know the writers we love and admire?
Years ago I met the poet Frank Stanford in a book at a bookstore called McKay in Chattanooga. Today my student staff associate, Chelsei, and I talked about how bananas it is that the McKay in TN is not the same as the Ed McKay’s in NC. I think she called it stupid. That or the Christian college in Chattanooga that has merged with the Christian college in NC. When I lived in Chattanooga and came to know myself as a poet, I went to McKay every week and bought 1 book of poetry and 1 literary journal. When I got into grad school, I went to McKay & bought 20 boxes of poetry books. Stanford’s The Light the Dead See was one of those books. When I read this book of poems, I had to go and see if Stanford was still living. I felt he had entered my body that I was the reincarnated Stanford. He died when I was five. I had the same feeling about Janis Joplin who died three years before I was born. How long can a soul float before it finds its new home?
The first time I saw Janis I felt Victorian, headache *le faint* & hand on head. I ran to McKay & bought every Joplin CD I could find. When I got my first email I added her name to my newly adopted name: Jade. JadeJoplin@hotmail.com
I loved Janis. But before I knew Janis I didn’t know Janis. My college professor had a poster of Janis in his office and when I saw her my jaw dropped: Who is she? I asked him. He looked at me like a Victorian.
Here is the poet Lorenzo Thomas talking about the poet Frank Stanford. Here’s a micro chappie of Lorenzo Thomas’. I didn’t know his name until I met Patricia Spears Jones. When I told her I didn’t know who he was she rolled her eyes, said something like “Honey” and schooled me. If we always know everything what is the joy of being alive in this world?