Friday, November 21, 2008

English Reading Series, 11/21/08

I sat in my chair and trembled.

I haven't felt that way in a long time and now it's happened twice in as many days. I shake, physically shake, with the pressure of feelings and ideas rushing to press my skin (like a balloon, streched and tense). My bones flex like a scaffolding under too much weight. I lose focus because of the tickling feeling inside my skull.

So, I sat in my chair and trembled.

The vibrations of my body slow, and slip away unnoticed. I'm here now. I'm ready to listen and expect to be impressed. The professor, an older woman with a comfortable stance and voice like my sixth-grade teacher, introduces each of the writers. The writers (an essayist, a poet and an author, all girls) listen to their introductions with strict attention. All three girls seem confident and ready for what's to come, but the way they shift their weight and pick at their clothes gives them away. Each writer walks up to the podium in turn. Although they performs in their own genre, their own voice, all the girls are there for the same reason. They've come to gouge out an eye, slice off a finger or amputate an arm and display the bloodied articles there on the podium.

The girls perform their sacrifices with all the dignity of priests. Hardly a quivering word escapes their lips as they saw and rip, slaughtering their own bodies. They place the limbs, organs, skin (now detatched), where all can see. Like barbarians showcasing the heads of vanquished foes, they showcase their own bodies, now segmented and crimson. The smell of blood fills the room. The taste enters eyes and mouth. The whole thing feels irreverent, like a dirty joke told at church, but everyone watches carefully. Some silently whisper to neighbors.

A question and answer session follows:

Q: "What's it like to write about something so personal, so painful?"

A: "Writing is an abstraction. When I write about something personal, it allows me to distance myself from that thing. It becomes something physical that I can confront and grapple with."

Somehow, that's an idea I can live with.

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