I had an interesting experience Thursday at Highline CC, where I was invited by Susan Rich to read for a Tsunami benefit. I opened with Wislawa Szymborska's fine poem "Could Have," which seemed very apropos for escaping (or not) a natural disaster, and even more so apropos as it was the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
I talked a little about the idea of "finding your subject," and how I believe the converse is more commonly true: your subject finds you. And I suggested some ways to live a writing life, so that it becomes more likely your subject will find you (or at least have an idea of how to reach you!).
I then read some poems as examples of different subjects that have "found me" over the years: medicine, love & relationships, garden & the natural world, travel, word play, family of origin. The students, who seemed fairly conservative for college-aged people, seemed noticeably uncomfortable with the graphic content of the medical poems, and the gay content in the love poems; but oddly enough, they all applauded when I read "The Boy Who Played With Dolls." So I guess it's hard to judge . . . people will always surprise you.
Kudos to the all the students and faculty who volunteered their time and made food and gave money and bought raffle tickets, all to benefit such a worthy cause.
The Boy Who Played with Dolls
Remembers the family photograph
of him in shorts, knees pressed close,
the toes of his sandals touching.
A missing tooth makes an awkward smile
as he gazes into the camera,
wincing as if the flash has wounded him.
The two large dolls are naked,
hair shorn, arms and legs akimbo
as they dangle from his hands.
Even at five years old
he is too tall to hold them
so their feet like his
will touch the ground.
Years later, his mother will say:
you weren’t a sissy, you were practicing
to be a doctor.
from Saying the World (Copper Canyon, 2003)