The next day, I came home from work, still a bit high, to find a large flat carton had arrived from the Press. It was three copies of the book: one hard cover, one soft cover, and a soft covered Large Print edition. The copy I had purchased had gone to the Bookstore with me that morning. I’d looked up the listing and ordered several copies for the store shelves. It was finally becoming real to me.
I shared my moment with my mother and presented her with the Large Print edition. I reserved the Hard Cover for something special, not quite knowing what that might be, but setting it aside in a box by itself. I spoke about the experience with others, who congratulated me, but life went back to normal very quickly, although, I was humming inside, making plans to submit more poems to other places.
The books were handsome. I didn’t particularly like the long title, which was a quote from Robert Browning. There were short stories, as well as poems, and many of them were complimented by black and white photos. I especially liked the final photo that accompanied my poem. It seemed so very right, underlining exactly what I had intended with my words, capturing them completely.
Taking my time, I read through each poem and story, exploring the photos, and finding a deep satisfaction that my words fit there, even though the structure had been altered again, and not to what I had specified. It was all very amazing.
About three months passed. Then as the manager of the store, I received notification of a new product. A two cassette tape set, put out by Paper Mache Press of its newest anthology, Grow old along with me the best is yet to be. I wondered if my poem was on the set, and who was doing the reading. I didn’t have long to wait.
The next day, I received a letter from the Press explaining the set of tapes. Because of the time and space involved, they had only included twenty of the sixty authors actually represented in the book, and had asked actresses and actors to do the readings. I was familiar with two of the actresses, and of course I knew Ed Asner. He’d been Mary Tyler Moore’s boss when she’d first started on her television sit-com, and had gone on to have his own show and done a few movies, as well. He had a very distinctive voice.
Although the letter explained the set of tapes, it didn’t list which poems or stories were to be included. I immediately called the book distributor and ordered a few copies of the set. Then had to wait three days for it to be delivered. When the order came in, I didn’t bother with anything else in the box. I grabbed the tape cassette package and looked at the listed contents. There was my poem, Front Porch Partners, listed again, as the anchor piece of the set, and read by Ed Asner. Oh, oh, my. Headed to the back of the store with my newest treasure in hand.
Ralph, the older gentleman who operated the music section of the store, was more than happy to set up the cassette, winding it to that last place position. He turned it on and I listened to Ed Asner recite the title of the poem and tell the world it was by Elizabeth Crawford. I think I was hyperventilating a bit, I know I was crying by the time he finished the poem. Without saying a word, Ralph rewound the tape so we could listen to it again. By then, we were both grinning at each other like two little kids.
It hadn’t occured to me that they would choose a male speaker to read my poem. I was a female and took it for granted that the poem was oriented to my own gender. Yet, here was this well known man, speaking my words as if they were his own, and bringing something quite new and different to the piece itself. Things I hadn’t been aware of putting into it. It was an astounding experience.
During one of my first experiences in college, I had to write a twenty page paper to prove that I could set out a thesis statement, argue my points in favor of that statement, and include at least one opposing view point. After turning in a semester of work, I had to go to the Instructor’s office for a very personal critique on the paper. I was scared stiff, and it was apparent to the woman when I entered her domain. She made a remark about my nervousness, and I told her that this was like carrying a child for nine months, and then having to watch it put up for public auction after delivery.
She laughed at that and said, “But, Elizabeth, I love little kids.” And was a bit surprised when I came back at her with, “Well, to me you are a stranger, and you’re holding my brand new baby in your hands.”
Much of that same feeling was running through my system after listening to Ed Asner read my little poem. He had taken the time to really hear the words, and infused them with new meaning, yet given them a place and a space in the outer world that was astounding to me. He had somehow made it a truly Universal piece, a bit of story that could be understood and related to by one and all, no matter the gender or the age.
(to be continued…)