I’m finally ready to admit it.
Denial must be the first thing you go through.
I’m through it.
Acceptance, that’s next.
Then, an announcement on Face book.
X (I took her name out, everybody’s got Google Alerts on their names…) is no longer my favorite poet–my favorite poet is Buddy Wakefield. There, I’ve said it.
This is unbelievably hard, even now, to admit. It’s kinda like leaving a first lover. You still love them … you just need something different. X, my former favorite poet, re-ignited a real passion in me for poetry. A fire started by William Blake’s “Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright” in my college literature class. My first year of college in Madison, an amazing professor and room full of mature, hungry students. We would dissect every inch of each poem on the syllabus and would talk for days about an individual author. We studied the political and social climate, the poet’s personal life and how all those factors influenced the writing. There was so much more to a poem than the words on the page. Cryptic phrases now had meaning. I was smug, in on the secret. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. After barely making it out of high school with my soul intact, it was like medicine. Students cried in class because they were so moved reading poetry. This was higher education; this was what I was born for. I became a World Literature major.
And then a German Language major. Then a Liberal Arts major.
I graduated with a degree in Science.
I’ve bounced around a bit.
I had found X during a time when I had stopped making music, in a book of poetry, a gift from my husband. He would eventually buy me her entire catalog; each new release would just appear on my nightstand, a new compilation of her poems in my Easter basket. X’s writing was so good. She made poetry accessible to me again. I didn’t need a professor to help me decode what her poems meant. She had balls. She wrote straight from her gut. She didn’t sugarcoat things. She was happy and angry and sometimes, at the same time. I could relate.
Then, last summer, on a warm Saturday evening, I hopped on Facebook. We had an early dinner and I had just turned on the dishwasher and heard it’s familiar hum. My family had dispersed to the trampoline, the porch and the sofa (snoring). Rae Fehring had just posted. “I’m at the Ani de Franco concert with an extra ticket. The first person to call me can have it.” 1 minute ago. Hmmm … would anyone mind if Mom left for a concert? No answer. I dialed Rae.
I didn’t really know Rae, but we’re members of the same tribe; the tribe that writes songs and gets up in front of people to play them. I don’t know how many other people called her or whom she turned down. She answered. Yes, the ticket was mine.
I sat down next to Rae and her friends in the 6th row. Great seats. I had come to see Ani De Franco. I left with my heart split open by the opening act … one Buddy Wakefield. At the break I ran back to the merch table. I had some cash in my wallet earmarked for something else, but I used it to buy one copy of everything Buddy would sell me. I needed this. It was medicine, new medicine. Books and CDs. I stood in line with everyone else. He signed them: “For Mary, the yes of yesses. Thank Goodness, B Wakefield.”
I love everything about Buddy Wakefied. This poet speaks so deeply to me that sometimes, right in the middle of a poem, I have to put the book down and take a moment. He makes me cry. And Buddy’s work causes my own poetry to spill out. Spill out. That’s pretty cool, especially when you call yo’self a writer. And I don’t mind crying.
So now he’s the one I reach for before I turn out the light. When I’m too tired to read much, but perhaps have enough energy for one just poem. He’s on fire. He’s a truth teller. He writes straight from the gut. I love that. I love people who shine light in dark spaces. Open that shit up. Don’t be afraid. Buddy Wakefield. He ain’t afraid.
And thanks Rae!
Watch a little Buddy here. Just the first one that came up in my search, but a pretty good one. You’ll see what I’m talking about.