Last night, I went to The New Yorker Festival’s talk on Dystopias/Utopias featuring Margaret Atwood, George Saunders, and Jennifer Egan.
Cue way too many emotions in the first minute for me to coherently listen to anything they were saying. (Although it should be noted that Margaret Atwood is a rather loquacious, IDGAF old lady. Would we want her any other way?) After a month of real classes in which I sift through endless legal opinions and pine for the days of reading Faulkner rather than Cardozo, it’s incredible to sit somewhere and realize that two of these people (Atwood and Egan) were the ones who penned words that made me dissolve into a pile of feelings from ages seventeen to … the present.
It’s a little different from meeting musicians or film directors. At least, for me. As much as I love art in all forms, nothing is quite as directly affecting as words. Here are just a bunch of folks sitting there, chatting, but you know they are able to tap into a kind of emotion that links directly to what you’re feeling. I might need to learn how to be more overwhelmed by real life, and less by fiction, but that might be the equivalent of trying to re-write twenty-three years of self-conditioning.
An unfortunate side effect of physical and emotional maturation is finding the people and circumstances around you more and more uninspiring. Or perhaps those are just my poor life choices. Either way, self-preservation is going to a need a lot more effort from now on. What I love about New York is, in some ways, the same trait as what made Brown so comfortable. You don’t really have to worry about the external. There’s something for everyone. You’re only as susceptible as you choose to be.
Now let me try to follow my own advice.
You know I’d be Wingdings.
I had no one to help me, but the T. S. Eliot helped me. So when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language – and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers – a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.