Sunday, September 6, 2009

Literature of Desire

The first IWP (International Writing Program) panel discussion called 'Literature of Desire' began at the Iowa City Public Library on Friday. This was one that I said I was prepared to be involved in but they chose five others so maybe they thought a children's writer would be less knowledgeable on the subject of sex and desire. They're probably right.

Millicent from Jamaica read out a Shakespearean sonnet:

Being your slave what should I do but tend
Upon the hours, and times of your desire?
I have no precious time at all to spend;
Nor services to do, till you require.
Nor dare I chide the world without end hour,
Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour,
When you have bid your servant once adieu.

Isn't it beautiful?

And this one by Tony McNeil, which is called The Catherine Letter. She read it with pauses where there are spaces and the way it appears on the page has significance, so I hope it replicates okay here.

my writing to you
Can I say a cliche

Never thought I would see the day when you would cut me
glimpsed you in
should have said at
should have said near
a bank one day; smiled; waved; and you cut me

name from the north
there's a mystery to women of frost
the young men stride to the woods and snip them dark lilacs
a wren wheels in the distance
the sun shells east of the lake

Couples kiss in the field across the wild cherries
In the dream the woman is sitting under a cotton
a man kneels on the slope
the pair meet in the mist, stuttering prayers

Have you seen lilies tilt in the wind
Do banks stretch shadows on people so that when they see the familiar they turn away

It reached in and touched my soul when she read it. I used to read and write poetry. I stopped. But I think I'm going to start again. These people are doing me good. Stretching me, opening me up, making me feel things unexpectedly. So much about a person is revealed in their writing - or it can be.

I felt closer to Hanaa from Saudi Arabia after hearing her choked up voice as she read her short story about walking in the street, in her white jeans, hair loose and blowing in the breeze. What a tortured twist to find at the end that it is not real and never will be. It's a freedom I take for granted.

Two more people in the group do readings at the Prairie Lights Bookstore this afternoon - a Tamil Indian woman called Meena and a Lithuanian playwright and scriptwriter called Marius. I believe it's broadcast on radio. Did you know that in rural parts of India, they still lynch people who have relationships outside of their own caste?

The struggles we face are different by culture, by gender, by religion, and by individual. But we also have so much in common. The more I listen, the more I like these people who write from their hearts.

1 comment:

  1. You could have spoken about the desire for muffins!!