(Above sequence: a few glimpses at the interior of Coffee House Press. They have a little free library and a C&P and drawers and drawers of type!)
Those of us gliding in and out of doors, looking, glimpsing--I know you from somewhere--we'd ask, as if at a wedding: how do you know the bride? (Is the book her groom, then?) How do you know Lightsey? Me: I was an undergraduate at the university, and I worked at a bookstore, where Jonene worked, who was dear friends with Lightsey, both MFAs, and we met once, on a shift, me and Lightsey. Briefly, with me panting at that Real Live Poet (this was before Find the Girl). I was, what? Twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two? Thereabouts. And there's the all afters: when I was a judge for the Minnesota Book Awards, and now we exchange poems, though I'm woefully overdue.
And this is how I love the poetry community: so many of my favorite poets were there. So many snaking ways we're connected.
Take this gorgeous pregnant woman (due November 4! A boy! Louis! I want to hug him already and immediately I did that thing that pregnant women are supposed to dislike, which is embrace her belly with my palms, but how could you not when the mama is so radiant?). Haley. She's in my St Paul writing group. Next to her is Cindra; I took a class from her at the Loft on the short poem. In the middle photo below, Haley's meeting Opal, and two yoga instructors / poets greet.
We had rehearsal, which is such a lovely word, and in the third photo below, you can see three more of my favorite poets: from the right, Meryl, who is no stranger here, and Brett, who hosts the St Paul writing group, and Sarah Fox, who blurbed City of Bears and was also in my MFA program and is a Coffee House poet, alongside Lightsey.
The performance itself cycled through the book, with hell and earth and heaven. (Hell and Earth and Heaven.) I was an Earth reader, which meant I was among ten readers who read ten poems scattered along the room, where the audience could cycle through as if we were a museum gallery, catching bits and pieces of all kinds of poems. Hell was first though, after Chris Fischbach, her editor, gave introductions: Lightsey read a sequence as dancer Vanessa Voskuil fascinated us. I took video, as surreptitiously as I could, not wanting to disrupt in any way (my camera is so woefully loud, but I love so much having this record).
Lightsey was beautiful and gracious and I wish Jonene could have been here to see this. But I'm glad I was; this was my first social outing since those long months--what will I call them when I can call them something? Those long months, the months we said good-bye. Either way, it was a fantastic coming out, and I'm so grateful to Lightsey to allow us, and to allow people I care a great deal about be a part of.
Also there, but not pictured, was Katie and her husband. Some day our entire families are going to have a play date because Katie is married to a math/science nerd and so am I (and her husband and I discussed how our poor children will be nerds of some sort and couldn't escape it) and they have a daughter about Maya's age and a son about Finn's age.
And these two, who occupy big parts of my heart. Love you, Opal and Meryl.
(PS: Colleen, wish you were here with us! xoxoxo)