We sat surrounding Dorianne Laux, up a twisty stair in a room at the top of the Tivoli. She was warm. We were worried, for our poems would be critiqued in the next three hours, and no one yet knew how it would happen.
I answered the call to adventure weeks before, via email. And when I stood at the bus stop in the rain, my guide stopped for me and took me with her. But when we reached the city, I wanted to navigate alone. I ate a large, mango-magical salad and made my way to the
dark brick tower that was the Tivoli and climbed.
We took her tests: a memory, recited as if from within it, no matter how long ago. A poem about an object that mystified us. And then she grappled with us.
We hadn’t expected roughness with a smile. We’d expected poems on paper handed back marked up. But she held our poems in one fist—later, as we would discover, hardly marked at all—and told us where they wanted to go and how we were holding them back. More spit and vinegar, please. As if they were our children and we’d raised them to say nothing at all if they couldn’t say something nice.
Why there are few poets: Who
wants to walk around
all day asking, What is that?