Last night, I was gifted with the opportunity to read for Howard County Poetry and Literary Society (HoCoPoLitSo)’s Wilde Readings series. I read an excerpt from the third chapter of my novel, Fossil Five, where Cassandra reads a letter she wrote to herself five years ago.
Personally, it’s an incredibly ironic moment, as my own seniors are now writing their letters to themselves, to be opened in 2025. I had some of my seniors watching the event last night, and some even offered questions to me. How paradoxically wonderful it was to be in both the present and in the future with my reading and my own students – most certainly a highlight of my career that I will hold on to for many years.
Anyway, I shared reading time with Diane Wilbon Parks, a poet and artist who lives in Prince George’s County. I was so honored to read with her; her poetry and presentation are both deep, abstract, and powerful.
Here are the first few lines of her poem, “Music to My Ear” from her 2016 published collection of poems, The Wisdom of Blue Apples:
You play inside musical notes
that slip away to have coffee,
then linger at the base of crescendos
like drums leaving tunnels inside me.
The chord of my vein is
traced with legends of you
slanted in prepositional phrases – of love,
crooked like elbows, misplaced on purpose,
hanging out of shelves, and sentences, and me.
I can just hear Diane reading these words, silk slipping from her lips as she brings this poem to life. Yet, as much as her poetry was transforming, it was her artwork behind her that mesmerized me.
Before the event even began, I complimented Diane on her artwork, a collection of colorful and black-white creations framed and on display behind her. I expressed my failed attempts at art, and how I, for some inexplicable reason, freeze up when it comes to letting go with creating on a blank canvas.
Then, during her question-and-answer session, one of the participants (and readers during open mic) asked her if there was a creative relationship between her artwork and her poetry. Diane was quick to answer, saying that her abstract paintings were an extension of her metaphorical poetry. It makes sense, right? She writes in the abstract, so why wouldn’t she paint in the abstract?
To me, this was epiphanic in every way imaginable. My own blocks, my own origins of fear, have been based on a great deal of self-induced pressure to paint and draw in the literal sense, recreating baskets of fruits, partially opened windows, and small children picking flowers in an untended garden.
I’m not a literal person, though, and to be a re-creator of such images, to replicate life as closely as possible with the stroke of a brush or pen, is just not who I am.
It took a walk through Life’s Labyrinth, along with a lot of patience and remaining wide open, to receive such a gift as I did last night.
So, today I pick up a pen and put it to a blank canvas, and I let go of the fears of creating works that are nowhere near who I am as a writer and as a person.
And, if I am so bold, I will share my abstract and metaphorical creations with you here.
Thank you, Diane. And thank you, HoCoPoLitSo, for gifting me this freedom to grow as an artist.