I was a bit anxious before we set out–I had not been to New Orleans since August 2005–a couple of weeks before The Storm. It was so good to be in the city again and to experience needed psychic healing by seeing a vibrant, energized city. Maybe it was the great weather but the peeps seemed joyful all around. We didn’t have any negative experiences. Everything was cool.
My first visit to New Orleans was when I was 13 years old. I went with my parents and we stayed on St. Charles. I fell in love with the city–it wasn’t just a teenage crush–I rode the streetcars up and down the line over and over again and longed to live there when I grew up. Something caught my eye in a small NOLA newspaper I picked up on that trip back in 1981. A notice for a poetry reading at The Maple Leaf Bar. Wow. Poetry. Cool! I was just beginning to write pimpled and hormone-soaked lines. I BEGGED my parents to take me or let me go on my own. I had never ever been to a poetry reading before. I had never ever been to a bar either but that didn’t factor into my comprehension of the potentially incredible, once in a lifetime possibility. A poetry reading sounded chic and exotic compared to my just up from the country-boudin and cracklin upbringing. I was really messed up when my parents wouldn’t let me go and I considered sneaking to Oak St. because I wanted to be there so badly. (Same thing happened when the Stones played the Superdome in 1981. It killed me that I couldn’t go.)
My old, fuddy-duddy folks were so lame! So I didn’t go and wouldn’t go for another 30 years.
Today was my first time ever at The Maple Leaf. Today I was actually a featured artist there thanks to Jonathan Penton of www.unlikelystories.org The Everette C. Maddox Memorial Prose & Poetry Reading held every Sunday at 3 PM in the courtyard of the Maple Leaf Bar is the longest running reading series in North America. It was a great high for me to read there and be a part of the Louisiana tradition.
We arrived during the third quarter of a home Saints game and the bar crowd was wild to put it mildly. The Saints won and the Unlikely Saints did too. Our readings were sublime in my humble opinion. I hated leaving at the start of the open mic but tonight’s a school night and we had a long drive home.
This weekend in New Orleans, among many things, I experienced the Good that poetry is and the Good it can do. There was “good” poetry (and prose) for certain but I think our group the Unlikely Saints (Jonathan Penton, Michael Harold, Frankie Metro, Wendy Taylor Carlisle, and Kristina Marshall) and our audiences experienced the Good Vibrations that can occur in optimum circumstances when lovers and makers of art gather to expeience creative work. Thanks to everyone who came out to listen, read, laugh with us. Most especially thanks to Jonathan for the invitation and all of his hard work.
Tuesday will be my birthday. 30 years from age 13, I have two completed manuscripts with good prospects, poems published in the double digits, a strong writing practice and lots of love and good energy surrounding me. This weekend was a circle completing and I hope to widen an (unbroken) circle in the future.
And I leave you with these humble words as a gift:
Bless you, you who create art. Believe in your craft; give to it as much as you can. Let it awaken you and be the matter of your dreams—
Your voice is both vulnerable and strong. Care for it. Bring the words which fly madly through you into the world through the discipline to which you adhere. Share it. Give it another life in someone’s mind and heart.
And follow this creed—
“Each success, no matter how small, in the practice of what I love is a lightning strike against the dark.”