blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



Marcel Cornis-Pope

Good evening. I'm Marcel Cornis-Pope, head of the VCU English Department, and I would like to welcome you to the Fifth Annual Levis Award Reading. This event honors the memory of the late Larry Levis, poet, essayist, teacher, scholar, and, above all, colleague and mentor for many of us.

Each year the English department and the MFA program in Creative Writing award a reading prize in Larry's name to the author of the best first or second book of poetry published in the previous calendar year. Believe it or not, this is our Fifth Annual Levis Award Reading. And five years in today's volatile world represents quite a tradition. The fact that this tradition has survived adversities of all sorts is a tribute to the man we honor and to the act of poetry. Last year, our Fourth Levis Reading Prize was awarded shortly after the events of 9/11. In spite of significant logistical problems that evolved bringing our awardee from New York to Richmond at the time when travel was still disrupted, we managed to go ahead with this reading, which occasioned, in many of us, thoughts about the role that poetry can continue to play in a confusing world fragmented by political and religious tensions.

Larry Levis believed in poetry's mediating role. As those who knew Larry well can testify, he had a special ilk of pragmatic idealism, which took him to many of the places that have been in the news in recent years, Yugoslavia, Romania, the Balkans, to bring people together through poetry and reflection.

This year's reading comes at a time of new uncertainties, with budget reversions and new talk of war. Under these circumstances, it would have been easy to succumb to pressures, be absorbed in interminable discussions of budget cuts and restructuring, and let this tradition lapse.

Again, Larry's legacy has prodded us on. I was reminded of a few lines in a poem published in a special Larry Levis issue of the New Virginia Review. I quote:

Without Speech. To be without speech means no one
listening, and that the flames scaling the neighborhood like mirrors
Can not even pretend to. This is
where the poor are not permitted to see themselves. . . .
[Where we are left] to seek our reflections in the passing leafy idyll
of a water so toxic by now it would scald you if it were
Real. . . .

Finding the way back to speech through the power of the poetic verb is especially important in times of uncertainty and polarization. We are very fortunate to be able to do that tonight, and we owe a world of gratitude to those who have made this evening possible. I would like to extend my thanks, first of all, to Larry's family, mother Carol, brother Kent, and sister Sheila, who is here with us tonight. Without their continued and most generous support, this remarkable event in the life of the English department would not have been possible. I also want to thank the MFA committee for choosing such a deserving winner this year and to Steve Scafidi for coming to share his poetry with us. A good tradition can thus continue as a tribute to the memory of Larry, who was a great supporter of writers, a generous mind, and an inspiring friend for all of us.

I will now ask poet and professor of English, Greg Donovan, to read a few poems by Larry Levis and to introduce the fifth Levis Reading Prize winner, Steve Scafidi.

Gregory Donovan

Thank you, Marcel.

I did miss one year because I had to be at a reading of my own, but I've been here every year basically doing the same job, which is to invoke the presence of Larry's spirit. One way I've done that this evening is to wear a T-shirt that belonged to Larry. It came to me after Larry's death, and so I'm wearing this shirt in his honor. In fact, I wanted to tell you a little story about this shirt and what I do when I wear this shirt. Every time that I put this shirt on, I declare it "A Larry Day." During a Larry day, what I'm actually doing is I'm living for two people at one time. It's as though I'm looking at the world through two sets of eyes or allowing his presence to inhabit me, and that's kind of a dangerous thing do actually as you might realize. Basically I just go through the day and do the normal things that I would do and, maybe you might think that's a little macabre or odd or something, but I don't feel that way at all. What I do is I think of it as inviting him to leave the kingdom of the dead and come back here to whatever kingdom this is and to do all the things that I was going to do that day. So it's like just living with another presence inside me. So I thought I'd tell you just a few things that Larry and I did today.

We were supposed to go play basketball, but we never got around to it because we lost track of time, something both of us have a habit of doing, most especially if time is limited and short. Another thing that Larry liked to do, we showed up a little late for a graduate student conference that we had that we were supposed to do. But we really did enjoy talking to the intelligent and talented graduate student we talked to. We talked about Ezra Pound, and we talked about Yeats, and we talked about Wallace Stevens and the idea of order at Key West. We talked about Robert Lowell's "For the Union Dead." But Larry thought that was going a little bit too heavy on the irony, so he wanted me to stop that. He thought that was a little too weird.

Then we went off to the Post Office to do a favor for some friends, and when the clerk was rude we didn't get upset. Instead, we tried to imagine what sort of day he might have had, and maybe what sort of night he had last night. And then we went over to look at the posters of the criminals. We looked at the interesting stories, and we pondered their identifying marks, and then for a light bit of revenge, we imagined what might happen if one of the criminals actually walked through the door right then and went up to the rude clerk. But then we kept imagining, and we imagined an unexpectedly hilarious ending for that event, and then we got out of the place quickly, just in case.

We enjoyed the warm, muggy weather, not entirely unlike the weather of heaven or hell, and we enjoyed the fact that for whatever reason, even if it was the terrible Britney Spears, who does seem to have a wonderfully poetic name if nothing else, all the young women seemed to be wearing cutoff shirts and low-slung pants that expose their midriffs, and we observed those little blobs of fat that ride along and jiggle up and down on their lower backs. and we pondered how it was that perhaps that was our own least-liked physical trait, but nevertheless on them it didn't seem nearly so awful.

Then it was time to write this introduction, and I asked Larry to help me with that too, and of course he did. He's a generous guy. The first thing that occurred to me when I was trying to write this introduction was that it seemed to me that I should ponder again the very strange mystery of how we were pretty much inevitably fated to meet sometime or another because we lived in so many of the same places—Missouri, and I have close friends in Fresno, and Utah, and all these places that I lived at the same time—but he was always following along behind me. I just want to make that clear. But it seemed like it took an awfully long time for us to finally get together, but when we did it was really worthwhile because we understood each other's stories so well. You know we could just refer to people and places and things. We understood exactly what we were talking about, including really obscure figures, like my first writing teacher, Thomas McAfee, the very first person I ever studied with. He was a colleague of Larry Levis's and knew him, and in fact one of the things that Tom did was—and I'm remembering Tom as well who is also another poet who has moved on to wherever poets go to (well you know where they go to). He wrote a poem in his almost last book, called The Body and the Body's Guest, an allusion to a poem by Sir Walter Raleigh, and this poem is called, "Larry Levis has a Poem About Writing a Poem." Now, in order to understand Tom McAfee's poems, you have to understand that they are incredibly compressed, and they are compressed by this tremendous, powerful weight of enormous irony. Not a dump truck's worth of irony, not a freight train's worth of irony, something like a continent's worth of irony goes into writing these poems. But this is addressed from Tom McAfee to Larry:

["Larry Levis Has a Poem About Writing a Poem," by Thomas McAfee, from The Body and The Body's Guest, published 1975 by BkMk Press.]

Now that deeply ironic poem is a reference, of course, to—and I thought that this evening I would vary from my practice in the past when I've always referred to poems from late in Larry's life, that I would refer to some poems from early in his life. And of course, the poem that he's referring to there is the one that you all know so well, "The Poem You Asked For," by Larry Levis.

["The Poem You Asked For," by Larry Levis, from Wrecking Crew, published 1972 by University of Pittsburgh Press.]

I started pondering how there is also an irony—actually Larry led me into this, of course, it's all his fault. This introduction is his fault. I don't have to take any responsibility for it. You see, I gave him the job to help me with it. I began pondering the irony of how people think all the time, and they mention it to me all the time about how Larry was obsessed with death at the end of his life, and he seemed to be predicting his own death, and he seemed to be all, you know, everything about his life was clouded over with death. Of course, those of you who know him know that was perfect nonsense. It was just absolute nonsense. He was very much alive, and he was really enjoying his life. He had a hell of a good time. One of the things that occurred to me to answer to them is that, well, if you look at his life, he was writing death-obsessed poems his whole life. I mean, when he was very young he was writing death obsessed poems, elegies and other kinds of poems.

I thought I might read to you one from The Dollmaker's Ghost. This book was published in 1981, a whole lot longer ago than some people might have thought.

["The Wish to be Picked Clean," by Larry Levis, from The Dollmaker's Ghost, published 1981 by E. P. Dutton.]

Now, the last thing I thought I might do to invoke Larry's spirit is maybe to dispel some of the self-consciousness I started feeling that you all might think I was a real weirdo wearing one of Larry's shirts and doing this whole weird thing with him looking out through my eyes and everything. So I just thought I'd let him answer to your feeling that I should be feeling self-conscious about that. And this is from an essay called "Bell's Tavern." I'll read the first part of it, and the last part of it, and that'll be the last thing I'll do, and then I'll introduce Steve.

This is called "Bell's Tavern." You might know where this place is, you'll recognize from the description where this place is in the city of Richmond. Larry, for a long time, didn't have a car, and he used to walk from VCU to his home in Church Hill.

Bell's Tavern
[For the complete text, see Bell's Tavern—Eds.]

Each day, walking to work or walking home, I pass the place where Bell's Tavern once was, not far from the river docks & a block past the Farmer's Market. There's nothing there now but an asphalt lot under a freeway overpass, & no one there except a pair of men who look homeless, who sometimes sway a little as if they've been drinking when they walk ahead of me, lurch to a stop together, & confer about something.

Bell's Tavern is no more now than a few square yards of dark, acrid air & windblown trash, but it was, once, a recruitment center for the Confederacy. It was also the place in which the plot to assassinate Mr. Lincoln was invented, or where it gave birth to itself, since the idea was no one's. It flew into the smoky tavern on the wing of a joke—all jokes have only one wing, & this is why they can only fly in large circles, & why, incidentally, we find them funny. The joke that would become Mr. Lincoln's death took the shape of a casual remark in order to be born, & nourished itself on smoke & laughter.

But the assassination was carried to its fruition because of an oversight & misunderstanding on the part of Booth, what they call a defect now that tragedy & falling from some great height is no longer possible. Booth was an actor & still did not realize that, because of this gift which had made him famous, there was no Booth, only a series of manifestations, in which he inhabited others, exhausted them on stage, & then withdrew, but not into himself, not into Booth. Booth wasn't there. Of course Booth still thought he was Booth even as the plot began to assume a serious shape in his mind, even as he began to consume more brandy in the evenings. His friends at Bell's sometimes thought it was odd that Booth did not act the way a famous actor should have acted, that he seemed so like the others who drank there, so . . . ordinary. For one thing, he complained all the time, which was what everyone else did at Bell's who didn't have a career on the stage. Like men up from the docks Booth complained about the usual things, even weather & horses though he worked indoors & did not own a horse. In a week or so, he became more specific in his complaints: a bout of insomnia; a flu that kept him in bed for three days; a stage manager he had always felt contempt for. One afternoon a wren, with gray wings & faint yellow throat & underbelly, flew into the tavern, alighted for a moment on a rafter behind the bar, then flew out again. Booth glanced at it, & afterward seemed sullen & bitter. His friends left him to his mood & went on talking. How could they know Booth was suspicious of the wren's colors, thought that gray & yellow did not belong together, thought further that the wren was not a wren, but something else entirely.

But it wasn't. It was a wren.

As the War went on, Booth began to seem, even to friends at Bell's who liked him, too mundane, too much himself—that is, he never seemed preoccupied with anything, not even with the plot he discussed privately with two of them there. And all the while Booth was trying to play a character who didn't exist, someone who had never been there in the first place. In a way he did a good job of it, for to be alive & not to inhabit yourself, is only rare when it continues, uninterrupted by anything. Each day there are long moments when most people, a majority in fact, aren't there though they appear to be—sitting under a hair dryer; or lecturing behind a podium of blond wood on the hitherto unacknowledged significance of Renaissance putti; or fishing for carp on the May Island Bridge. Long moments pass when all of the three aforementioned are not there, not present, & though they look as if they are, they know they are not.

Booth assumed Booth was there, that Booth inhabited Booth, & that everyone else did the same. He thought this the most incontrovertibly ordinary fact of all, that one not only possessed, but in fact was, in our threadbare word for it, the Self. Booth assumed, without thinking about it much, that he enjoyed the same things other ordinary people enjoyed: drinking brandy at Bell's, complaining, & plotting the assassination of the President of the United States.

Booth thought all this was completely ordinary without ever realizing that being completely ordinary and being completely insane is the same thing.

There's nothing there now, where Bell's Tavern was, but litter, oil stains, gray flange after flange of steel & girders, the constant, milling, breathy sound of traffic, like a sawmill when the lumber has gone through but the blades continue for a moment or so afterward.

You say one thing is like another thing, you bring the two different things together to see if they align. If they do, it is a way of being there, a way of inhabiting who you are.

Booth lived out his whole life without once inhabiting Booth. . . .

In Renaissance Italian art, putti are the diminutive, plump infant angels that crowd canvases & appear with no apparent reason above cornices, eaves, archways, at the edges of sculpture. They look unconvincing, stylized, decorative, a kind of graffiti or defacement over everything. And are painted or given such shapes because, in the artists' minds, they represented nothing. They represented nothing because angels have no souls, & have no need for them. Angels are what is not there, are the air itself. An avenging angel is sent, we say. to destroy something. When he destroys he does so impersonally, perfectly, & completely, & can do so because he isn't there, is most absent when most present, most apparent & most invisible when he acts.

Booth, whom no one inhabited, was an avenging angel, someone sent to do a job. He stopped, with two shots from a pistol, the pain Lincoln felt at knowing completely who Mr. Lincoln was, & the pain he felt, simultaneously, at not knowing at all who Lincoln was though he had to be him, nevertheless.

And me? I pass the begrimed marker, affixed to the flange on the overpass, that designated the place where Bell's Tavern had been. It was the 7th of March. I strolled through the town & watched the moon rise, full, slow. There was the smell of spring in the night air, & a vee of geese flying over the rock bar & porno theater on Grace Street. When I got home I listened to a tape of Coltrane that is hard to find now, & to the only remaining tape of a lost Okie who used to sing in the oil-field bars around Bakersfield before he was murdered in one of them. I made some coffee & began writing this. I am still writing it, &, in a few minutes, I will begin turning away from it, getting up, getting ready to welcome the pain that flows into me whenever something is over, welcoming that hour when pain takes complete possession of me, that hour in which one tries to avert his face from everything as if Christ had walked in & sat down in one of the rickety chairs in the kitchen & taken off his hat, that still time when you realize that he doesn't exist, that he has never existed, & yet he is sitting across from you now, as if he has all the time in the world.

And I will welcome the moments that come in the wake of this pain, when I go over it all again, reading the scrawl I've made on the these pages, checking it to make sure it has two wings like the wren that flew into Bell's Tavern & then out again, & not just one.

So, now that Larry's here, he wants to hear a reading. And he, like all of us, is looking forward to hearing from Steve Scafidi, who I'm proud to say is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, and who also had the wisdom to attend Arizona State University where he earned his MFA degree. I'm also glad of the fact that he is a person who not only knows how to work with his head, but also with his hands. He is a professional cabinetmaker, that is, a real carpenter, and lives in Summit Point with his wife, Kathleen. All the ten books which were passed along as the finalists for the Levis Prize this year were intelligent, well-made, inventive. All of them were worthy of prizes, and, in fact, nearly all of them had previously won prizes. But only one of them seemed to have an extraordinary amount of a quality which I'm going to call heart. And I'm going to let Steve's reading illustrate for you exactly what I mean by that. Steve Scafidi.

Steve Scafidi

Part 1

Thank you. I had a dream before I came here that I was required to do some light carpentry when I got here. And I remember saying over the phone, "Well, okay." But it is a delight to be here, and I want to thank the VCU English Department and the Levis family, which is one family, I can see. It is a great honor to be here, where I went to school. It's funny, I think I might've had a physics class in here, and I think if my teacher came in, she would probably see me up here and go, "That's about right." And my father grew up here, and I think, though I've never asked, I think I was conceived on Grove Avenue somewhere.

So it's great to be here. I'm going to read, to begin with, a poem—actually I was thinking when I was putting this reading together what I might do, and I noticed that I have a real jones to read love poems. I'm usually militantly brief when I read, and I will be brief, but I noticed that I kind of want to read the whole book. I'm not going to do that. I want to read until slowly each of you file out, and my mother and father are sleeping, right there. And my mom and dad are here, and I'm happy to have them here. But I will be brief.

This first poem is about—and I've read this poem a number of times in this city, and I hope no one is tired of it, but I do like to read it. Say you're sitting in a restaurant, and you're eavesdropping, partly because you can't help it, and you hear a lot, so that by the end of the conversation you feel like you need to get up and introduce yourself. It's called "Ten-Letter Word for a Lucky Man."

["Ten-Letter Word for a Lucky Man," by Steve Scafidi, from Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer, published 2001 by Louisiana State University Press.]

That's my child, by the way, who's making the noise. What a terrible dad. I went up and told her she had to take the baby outside. I'm sorry. Oh my god, bad parenting right from the start.

This poem here I wrote for my sister Lisa, who is here tonight and who has never heard me read before, and I thank her for coming. She runs marathons, and that just is amazing to me that people run marathons, and I know that lot of people do. But the amazing thing about it, it seems, is that you spend all that time getting ready to run a marathon. You know, which means when you're not running one, you're running half of one. I drive twenty-six miles and I go, "Hey, look at me." I mean, I'm not like that so it's stunning to me that she does this. I was thinking about, how do you finish a marathon? I know you're dead tired when you're done with it, but like when you're done roller skating, you still roller skate. You know, your legs are still moving that way. How do you sleep? What are you dreaming about? What happens? And when thinking of that, it reminded me a bit of what she must feel laying in bed after a marathon is a little like what a poet feels like sitting at the table, I think. There is something running over and over, and it's musical. It has a cadence and a rhythm, and you can't let go of it. This is called "The Twenty-Seventh Mile of a Marathon," for Lisa.

["The Twenty-Seventh Mile of a Marathon," by Steve Scafidi, from Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer, published 2001 by Louisiana State University Press.]

I'm going to read something that I wrote when I hear that Larry Levis had died. And I think that it is mostly the response to a lost love, which is an elegy. You know, I mean it's like a death, at times. When I wrote this poem for him—really when I was writing this book it was before I had written many of the poems in here—and writing the poem, I don't think it's necessarily typical of many of the poems in here, but it opened a door to something, to so many of the poems in this book. It provided me a way of coming at subject matter that I didn't have before. And I feel a little embarrassed that I still can't articulate what it is that happened. But it did, and it started with this poem, and I'll read it now for Larry Levis. It's called "The Sublime."

Excuse me, but this also reminds me of—I think all writers, and I know there are a lot of writers here, too—but I'm just emerging from a time where you think, "What is the point? Why am I doing this? Why write?" You know it's the question that every ten years knocks me on my ass, and it has, and I'm getting up now. I think when I wrote this, this poem helped me get out of that, stand back up. I think that's what I'm trying to say.

["The Sublime," by Steve Scafidi, from Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer, published 2001 by Louisiana State University Press. "The Sublime" is reprinted with permission in Blackbird, an online journal of literature and the arts, Fall 2002.]

I think, too, that this book is about, I've said it before, is about sex and death, it seems to me, which is another way of saying blessing or loss. And ordinarily I do read a lot of the sadder poems. But there is, I think, more often when the poems are joyful there is this celebration of dream. And I think, saying that I wanted to read love poems, I think those are the ones, too, I wanted to read, the ones that celebrate dream and signal possibility to me as a writer. I think I always return to dream. I always return to that moment right before you've fallen asleep, and you're not awake, and you're not asleep, and the world is unmoored. That to me is where it begins. When I can retain that feeling through the day, not just when I'm sitting at my desk, which makes for a bad driver. But there is that, I think, that a writer needs to cultivate, not just when you're sitting at your desk, but at all times. This is called "If Every Night You Sleep You Die." A friend of mine requested this, and I'm glad she did.

["If Every Night You Sleep You Die," by Steve Scafidi, from Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer, published 2001 by Louisiana State University Press.]

I've been a part of a few English departments—as a student, and as a teacher, and as a visitor of sorts—and I've been struck, the longer that I've been away from here, about how not only are the faculty of the English department here devoted to their subject, but truly devoted to their students. I'm constantly overwhelmed with—and this increases as I get older, which is lucky—but I'm amazed at the generosity, at the time, of dealing with a kid who didn't know what he was doing but was doing it. And all the things that were given to me by a whole variety of teachers that I didn't know I needed or mattered until later. That means a lot to me, and this poem is partly for that love, I think, that the teachers here have had, and have, for their students, I guarantee. But I think there's a tradition of poets writing poems to their high school English teachers. I know Henry Taylor has. I'm from his county, too. We didn't have the same teachers but—

So anyway, I wrote this poem for an amalgam of a couple different high school English teachers. It's called "Here the Street is Narrow."

["Here the Street is Narrow," by Steve Scafidi, from Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer, published 2001 by Louisiana State University Press.]

I am actually waiting for a couple of high school English teachers to come up and slap me. It hasn't happened, but I think it might.

Steve Scafidi

Part 2

My wife and I lived right on the Shenandoah River—and we live in West Virginia now, just ten minutes from where we were before in Virginia—but we lived in Virginia right on the Shenandoah River, and there was a creek that fed into the river, and it was wonderful that it had these waterfalls, a beautiful place to go, and the river was always full of wildness, and crazy noise, and people nearly dying, and cops running around. It was just a wild thing. But the creek was kind of like the secret area and I loved to go there, especially when something was on my mind, you could hang out. But I went there. And this poem is written from this when I went—I can't remember if it was late winter or early spring—and I just decided to get in the water, and I took all my clothes off except my boots and just swam around. And then I noticed these buzzards started circling, with me with my white winter body, you know, they thought, ahh, it's not long for this guy. And so they came, and they came close too. And I was eventually laying on a rock, and I noticed that all of them—and I don't know if this true for all vultures—but they were flying directly between my eyes and the sun, so that their shadow was crossing my eyes, I think to see if I would react, and this poem is my reaction, I think. This is called "Naked Sunlit Afternoon with Vultures."

["Naked Sunlit Afternoon with Vultures," by Steve Scafidi, from Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer, published 2001 by Louisiana State University Press.]

I've told this story before, but recently there was a deer dead on the road where I work. And where I live is now, what I think was rural is now being destroyed, basically, by people who build houses and live in them for a year and then move out, and just tear up the land, and they all have Lexuses and stuff. So this dead deer was in the middle of the road, and I was driving to work, and these vultures did not want to get out of the way, either. They were just walking around. They were the king of it all. And these Lexuses were kind of piled up behind the scene. You know, no one. . . So when I got by them, I went "Hey. You know, we're on the same team, I think."

But what's next?

I'm going to read something—I love this poem because it's so inappropriate. And I love it because it's an erotic poem, and I'm a man at a podium in an academic building, and I'm going to read this erotic poem, and I think that it's absurd, that fact is absurd and I love that. And I know that a couple of people were warned away, or may have been warned away from coming to the reading because of this poem. Iit's not that bad, but it is pretty bad, in a good way. And actually one of those people I notice did come, who I thought may not have.

In it, all there is to know is there's a speaker and the lover of the speaker, and the lover of the speaker is walking one of the latitudinal lines of the globe on her way to bed. It's called "The Latitudes of Desire." Let me get a drink of water before this one.

Frank O'Hara once said that poetry has to be at least as good as the movies. And there are things wrong with that statement, but there's a lot right with it, too. And I think that we need to include in our poems the things in our lives. Another writer, Nicholson Baker, said that life is too short for writers not to write with the utmost candor. And I love that, and it's a good reminder for me. It's called "The Latitudes of Desire."

["The Latitudes of Desire," by Steve Scafidi, from Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer, published 2001 by Louisiana State University Press.]

A natural next poem is a poem that I wrote when my wife and I were trying to have a baby—and we did; her name is Isabella—and I thought I might write something to encourage the process, or to help the process along. So I did. And it seems to have worked. So I'm going to read it. It's called "To One Lingering in the Trees."

By the way, a "beauty bush" is—I don't know if anyone knows what a beauty bush is, but we have one in our yard, and it's a very ugly tree eleven months out of the year. It looks dead. It's scraggly and nothing's on it, and people say that you should cut it down. But then, one month it just blooms in these millions of tiny, little pink blooms. It's gorgeous. "To One Lingering in the Trees."

["To One Lingering in the Trees," by Steve Scafidi, published 2002 by Blackbird, an online journal of literature and the arts.]

That's a new poem. It's not in the book.

Two more. You all doing all right? Because when I was a student here, I loved poetry, but a little goes a long way for me. And when I was a student , I would sit in the backs of readings, and when the guy up here or the woman up here would chat like this between poems. I was like "Shut up. Read the poem." So I hear you.

This poem I wrote for an occasion that never occurred. It was a celebration of music where I lived in Purcellville, Virginia, and it never happened, and I was asked to write it, and I never got to read it. So I'd like to read it, and I'm going to. But it reminds me partly of poetry readings. This is written to an audience. It's called "For the Eighth Annual Celebration of Saint Cecilia, the Patron Saint of Music, Purcellville, Virginia, November 1999."

["For the Eighth Annual Celebration of Saint Cecilia, the Patron Saint of Music, Purcellville, Virginia, November 1999," by Steve Scafidi, from Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer, published 2001 by Louisiana State University Press.]

This is my final poem, and I want to thank you all again for being here, and thank you all for having me. It has been a delight. And I'm looking forward to tomorrow, doing the workshop. It's so nice for me, when I'm not around people all the time who read and write, it's so nice to come to a place like this where it seems everyone is. Everyone is! I wasn't when I was sitting back there. But anyway, thank you again for having me.

This final poem, I wrote—I actually wrote it after the book was accepted. Partly thinking of my heroes, and asking myself, "Who are my heroes and why?" And one person came to mind. I think I've had a slow understanding of what she did. I always thought what she had done was an act of ordinary courage. And I was mistaken. I think that what she did was an act of extraordinary courage. This is a poem to her. It's called "Ode to Rosa Parks."

["Ode to Rosa Parks," by Steve Scafidi, from Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer, published 2001 by Louisiana State University Press.]

Thank you all.  

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