Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dear Kay Ryan

Thank you for the lovely evening on Tuesday night at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. I wanted to stay and speak with you afterward, enamored by your presentation, but it was the birthday of my beloved, and frankly she had indulged me enough to spend the hour with you when poetry is not particularly her cup of tea. Nevertheless, she was engaged by your poems and your presence. My more British empirical friends might even call you a pip. She had fun in the theater of the Folger listening to you read your poems once, occasionally twice. When you talked about your homemade holiday cards, I poked her side as she pokes me in late November for crafting a hundred cards while avoiding writing papers. We listened carefully for you to cue you hand to being a lesbian. When you did acknowledge writing a poem about a dream of your partner and called her she, we sat back in our chairs relieved. Now reading you on the internet, I realize, you’re very open about being a lesbian. Twenty-seven years with Carol impresses me as I try and figure your age, when you met, and map those facts against my own, just out of habit. You know the natterings of long-term relationships. I’ll say to my beloved, how old was I? And you were? And when we’ve been together, I’ll be? And you? We both sigh and shake our heads. Ask what the other wants for dinner or if we saw the news of some absurdity or another. None of this I would have told you had I spoken with you after the reading, your new book pressed in my hands. I would have asked you to sign it and sputtered out my name. I’m so terrible in some social situations. Once, and I was much younger then, I went to see the FAMOUS poet and stood in line for all of four minutes (she was very famous but you know the relative fame of poets) and when I arrived, hard bound book cracked and presented, she asked my name, and I said, my name? My name? My name? Yes, your name, pen in hand. I couldn’t remember it and had to be rescued by my best friend then who swooped in, Julie, her name is Julie, and she loves your work. I was frozen. I couldn’t even think of a witty reply, just grasped the book to my chest when she returned it and backed away. I have more grace than this now, though, so I’m sure, standing in the dark, wood-paneled room of the Folger, I would not have been so mute, though I cannot guarantee the witty, delightful repartee that is fulsome in my imagined lives. All of this to say, Kay, thank you for the lovely evening with your dry wit, your sharp poems. I’m going to add you to the list and spend more time reading you. I wonder if you’ve read Emily to Susan? The Dickinson meter and line breaks so present in your poems, I must believe you read Emily daily in manuscript. In fact, I’ve started to think of you as the modern Miss ED, biking in Northern California, rugged, tan, and now the toast of the town. Ah, how fortune’s turn and lives change in the boat we steer on faith. If you get this, drop me a line, I promise I won’t respond. -- Julie

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