Sunday, June 5, 2011

Starstruck on Bourbon Street

When I was an undergraduate, I double majored in English and creative writing--a redundancy I ignored because it allowed me to read and write and read some more (and not take statistics). As part of the upper-level poetry class, we had guest poets do readings and then we, privileged upperclassmen that we were, got to have dinner with them.

I was always starstruck. These poets were magical beings who doled out moments with us mere mortals like pixie dust. I remember being terrified to ask Terrance Hayes (whose poem "Same City" I now use to teach my composition students about expressing big ideas through little details) questions about his process. Who was I? Why should he answer?

I do not think that I would be scared to ask these questions now. I hope that is because I think more of myself and not less of him, of all of them, the poets, these magicians.

But I think it's okay. On Bourbon Street (where I found myself after a recent conference in New Orleans had ended for the day), amid the neon lights and drunken antics, I watched one particular street performer. He was dressed in shiny gold pants and a bright yellow jacket. His skin was painted gold, and he danced atop a milk crate while music blared from a 1980's boom box. And he had it. The magic. I was starstruck again.

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