Hoopla and A Three Ring Circus
Three months later, several things occurred and my life became something I could not begin to understand. Much of it remains a blur, so I will try to hit the highlights as they come to mind.
-While at work, I received a notification from Paper Mache Press that the Anthology, in the form of the set of tape cassettes, had been nominated for a Grammy Award in The Spoken Word Category. It was up against two other audio books, one of which had been authored by Hilary Clinton, the first lady of the land. Whew! That was nice, but stiff competition.
-The phone rang at the bookstore. It was a local newspaper wanting to set up an interview with me, immediately.
-My sister was scheduled to have a very delicate surgery done on her back, at a hospital in Milwaukee.
-The poetry anthology for the poetry group had also been published and a reception set up for a week after the Grammy Awards telecast.
-A television station called and informed me that they intended to be at my home for an interview that evening. I informed the woman that my home was off limits and if she really wanted an interview, she’d have to make it at the bookstore.
-I had two newspaper interviews, and two radio interviews within the coming days.
-One television interviewer called and demanded an immediate interview. I told her that I wasn’t available because I was on my way to Milwaukee to visit my sister in the hospital. The woman told me she’d meet me there and she’d set up something in a conference room. I refused her idea and she had to settle for an interview in the bookstore a few days later.
-My boss, who had congratulated me on my poem, suddenly demanded that I organize and plan a book signing reception, in my honor, as soon as possible. I told him it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.
-A Milwaukee based radio station called and asked for a phone interview to be broadcast on a very popular talk show. I agreed and when the time came, picked up the phone and was greeted by a rather abrasive voice, already on the air, “Well, Elizabeth, where the hell did you come from, and how does a grandmother from nowhere get nominated for a Grammy Award?”
There was a definite sneer in the man’s tone, and I took my cue from that and responded, “Actually, I don’t know. I was not personally, as an individual, nominated for the award. I was simply one of sixty authors represented in the book, along with numerous photographers who also submitted their work and were accepted as well. Oh, and by the way, I come from Racine, Wisconsin, and there are three other Wisconsin poets in the Anthology.” There was a bit of laughter in the background. The interview continued, but the sneer never diminished.
It was my first realization that this might not be an altogether wonderful, or even pleasant, experience. However, there was a counter-balance that was more than satisfying.
-A long time friend of the gentleman who owned and operated the music section at the back of the store, and came in regularly to visit, stopped at the counter one morning and began to recite a few lines of poetry. I looked at him, a bit confused, then realized that the words were familiar because they were my own, from the Front Porch Partners piece. The lines about the sound of wooden oars cutting through cold morning mist. I grinned at the man and he told me he knew I was from Green Bay and that he had spent some years there, long ago, and that my poem, those lines, reminded him of the many mornings he had gotten up before dawn to go fishing on the Bay. We discussed our mutual fishing lore and he told me that he wasn’t much of a poetry fan, but he certainly enjoyed my poem.
-Another customer, a middle-aged woman, came in looking for that book with that poem in it about men and women growing old together. I got her a copy of it and she asked where the poem was located, the one written by a local woman. Flipping the book over, I opened it to my poem. After swiftly reading the first few lines, she looked up and smiled,
“Yes, that’s the one. My anniversary is next week, and I want to give it to my husband. We fell in love in high school and are still in love. This poem tells our story,” her eyes were bright with a hint of tears. I smiled and asked softly, “Would you like me to sign it for you and address it to your husband?”
She looked up in alarm, then stammered, “Oh, do you mean you wrote this? But…how could you have known, I mean… are you sure?” She sniffled. I nodded and picked up a pen and wished the man and his wife many more years of happiness. She read what I had written and was smiling and crying all at the same time. She thanked me profusely and left the store, clutching the book to her chest.
The high school Chemistry teacher, the one from the Workshop, had called me several times and we’d spent some time discussing poetry and other far ranging topics. One night, while driving to a lecture and performance by a Native American songwriter/singer and Hoop Dancer, Steve told me why he thought the poem struck such strong chords in various and diverse individuals.
He explained to me about Prelapsarian culture and existence, saying that way back then, it was believed that language had yet to be invented. All communications were done with physical movement (hands and body language), perhaps occasionally accompanied by grunts or such. He went on to tell me that although we have come a great distance from that time period, we still retain the same brain stem formation, and that the collective unconscious (Carl Jung), is believed to hold the memory of those ancient times and meanings.
“What you did in your poem was pile one image atop another, flooding the mind with two distinct individuals going through life together. Then closed that whole train of thought with that single, non-verbal image of two hands clasped together saying far more than any words could have done. It’s incredibly powerful.”
I thanked him and then went home and looked up the word Prelapsarian. Oh, my.
(to be continued…)