Saturday, May 16, 2009

Quisnam dat poeta pecunia?

The audience should be a little more self-congratulatory, a little more "intimate."

We're dealing in gestures, elaborations not of "political correctness," which is a strategical given, but of "social appropriateness" surrounding acts of the mind and imagination. We're gathering details. I'd wanted to break into Latin, though my Latin was rusty, limited to an intensive summer course in high school. I reviewed the textbook. I'd wanted to translate my poems to Latin as a performance. I'd been invited to perform for a second time in D.C. and had yet a year to get ready for it, enough time to translate all the poems, but I didn't go because during that year I was parallel-barred by anxiety. I was trapped inside the car if I drove somewhere, twice running out of gas, because I'd been too "afraid," not the precise word for it, to fill the tank. The invitation to read in the series sort of dried up because I was too anxious to achieve it. I could still translate my poems to Latin in the sense that I haven't heard of anyone else doing it. I could do it even if someone else had done it -- translated his or her own poems to Latin -- what am I waiting for?

I talk about the "Southern Man" and his taking his girlfriend hostage and his orientation toward normalcy, his own as the definition of it, but the fact was that years later, certain medications were the cause of secondary illness, including anxiety. The last time I saw the Southern Man we were at a gas station in Houston. The girlfriend he'd taken hostage had slipped away to live as the hostage of a rich man. I tried to greet the Southern Man openly, but he turned away in his eyes. Perhaps he believed that the medications he'd had the doctor put me on had prevented my realizing the situation.

I'd have an evening party or potluck or picnic for white women in the cw bureaucracy -- white women, that is my group, and I am in the subgroup of white women diagnosed. I'd query them and find that not one of them had considered translating her poems to Latin to read aloud in D.C. The (organic 2% milkfat) group (but not the recombinant bovine growth hormone rbGH-added sub-group) teach composition and creative writing as a form of rhetoric, and some of them grade cw papers "for creativity." In my semesters-long interview in the mirror, I became a grading surrealist and pretended I was ready to grade cw up-and-comers and to mark them tardy and turn in documentation of their attendance. Of course, there would be no sex at school. Never had there been and never would there be. I agree with that: no sex at school. Sex is what we watch on regular television, not what people do at school. There only I among instructors would be, still smoking cigarettes, Nat Sherman Classics, at the interval between classes.

If someone lesser in the scheme of things, poorer, less published, without an agent, without a husband, without children, fewer years of sobriety, etc., is late for a meeting ... what happens to that person, him or her?

In real life, that one lower-on-the-totem-pole quits.

1 comment:

Carol Novack said...

I have horrible memories of Latin. My "old maid" Southern born teacher with Southern accent and ancient uptight styled hair was in love with Julius Caesar. So we girls had to suffer through passages of phalanxes of soldiers murdering one another in the name of her totalitarian god. Well probably the girls didn't mind it but I couldn't stand reading the crap. Well anyway, Miss Smith (no kidding) wanted us all to write Xmas cards in Latin and as an agnostic at the time but always a Jew, I could hardly see the point of writing Xmas cards to begin with, and in Latin yet? So, I couldn't TAKE IT ANYMORE and said, "Miss Smith, I HATE Caesar!" And she told me I was tactless. Then she said (and I can still hear her): "Child, you don't know anything of life." And that's my Latin story.

So where's the Scandinavian poetry?

Want to hear about my fucked up senior year in college when no shrink could possibly help me?