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  • Elaine Fletcher Chapman

The Return

I returned from reading at Cornelia Street Cafe in NYC with a fraction more faith in the poems I read. I revised and revised before the reading still unsure. How can we be sure of ourselves, our work? Practice? Rewriting? Reading aloud to other people? Are they responding? Which poems make people hold his or her breath? Which poems make people laugh?

The reading gave me courage to send out more poems, to work on the “collected,” as Jason Shinder used to say. “Always keep folders of your Collected and Uncollected. Carry them with you everywhere.” So today before I travel to DC to attend A Celebration of James Baldwin at The National Gallery of Art, I will print out “the Collected,” place the poems in a folder, put them in my large tote. With the act, I envoke Jason’s reverance toward my poems. All in a reading. It was Jason who first invited me years ago to Cornelia Street Cafe, introduced me. Liam Rector was there, as was Victoria Clausi. They rode up to the cafe on Liam’s Vespa, sat at the nearest table.

I wrote Donald Hall’s words, “my work is my devotion” on a small piece of paper. Taped it to the wall above my desk. Poetry, my spiritual practice. I still burn incense, bow when I enter my study. Always bare feet, hair pulled back. My study, still my zendo.

And this morning I’m reading Transforming Vision, selected and introduced by Edward Hirsch. The fall season, an obsession with one particular painting. I’m hoping to create a “counter-love.” A counter balance for moving from the “collected” to the intimacy of a single brush stroke and back. All wings, all feathers. 

#EdwardHirsch #TransformingVision #CorneliaStreetCafe #JasonShinder #LiamRector

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