April 2018

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nerd Hip

My partner Ann and I attended the bus poetry launch on Monday night at the Moore Theatre with our friends Ellen, Donna, Rita, and Linda. I am not one for hip anything--much more nerd than hip--but this might have been a hip event. Or at least nerd hip.

As we approached the theatre, Ann took my picture under the Poetry on the Buses marquis. We made our way through a crowd onto a bus parked in front of the theatre. Because we were afraid the bus might take us to Ballard, we exited quickly, but later re-entered to read poems by local writers where advertising usually reigned. My photo was in a collage of sixteen poets' black and white portraits. In the photo, I am looking directly into the camera, my left eye clearly pointed towards my nose, as it has been since neurosurgery to remove a brain tumor seven years ago. (I had told the photographer that I wanted my disabilities to be obvious, so I was happy with this picture.) As my friend Donna pointed out, I am in the upper left corner, an important corner. 

Inside the theatre, I was greeted by a woman at a reception table as "one of our poets." I stuck a name tag to my sweater which read, "Mary Edwards, Poet." From the name tag hung a red ribbon which read "I AM THE POETIC VOICE OF KING COUNTY." Well, really it's me and 365 other poets, including my friend, the poet Kathy Paul. On a balcony in the reception area a band played, and each of the 165 poems rolled, lit, onto the wall. Some folks drank wine. The place murmured with energy.

Ann held my hand, helping me weave through the crowd into the theatre, where we found seats for ourselves and our friends. Fairly quickly, the place filled and I could hear Somali, Vietnamese, Russian and Spanish in the crowd. On stage, my friend the poet Roberto Ascalon approached the lectern to begin the ceremony while the band "Love, City, Love" played. 

Thirty-five poems were organized into five "chapters" that told the story of coming home: coming up the walk, fumbling with the keys, opening the door, stepping inside and dropping my bags, and resting in the place I call home. Poets approached the mic, and each read a poem of less than 50 words--some in English and some in the four most common immigrant languages in the county. Between each chapter, Love City Love played with a poet. 

The first man who read, a man of Indian descent, rolled to the mic in his wheelchair, and I warmed with the welcome of a disabled person. One older woman entered the stage in a golden Vietnamese dress and read her poem in Vietnamese. Afterwards, another local poet who is bilingual read the poem in English. When Roberto introduced Carlos, a boy perhaps in middle school or elementary school, I saw Carlos's head as he stepped out from the curtain. When he saw the crowd, his eyes widened and he quickly disappeared backstage again. Later in the performance, Korvus Blackbird, a very, very tall black man with a stunningly deep voice came on stage with his arm around young Carlos, who sobbed through a poem about fighting with his younger brother.

Some poems were funny, and others made me cry. Some were clever and others earnest. The evening's variety embraced and went beyond the many languages and poetic traditions. One of my favorite poems was a haiku that went something like this:
Grandma loves haiku 
That never make any sense.
Another favorite described cleaning a loved one's home in her absence--perhaps they had broken up--using parts of speech in surprising ways: "I washed your adverbs down the disposal." 

I didn't perform at this celebration, though I did get to perform at a bar during Lit Crawl a few weeks ago. Friends came that night, too, and it was powerful to hear the audience's response, its exhalation when I read the last line of my poem:


Like catfish at the
MLK and Cherry corner:
Grits and y’all,
lightning cracked the skies.
on the #3 I bounce:
Benaroya to Harborview
To home.
Riders board:
A tourist without change,
Ladies in sun-dresses and leather boots,
Gents plugged-in and tuned-out.
Me, with my bus pass:


One aspect of this experience that I love is the current trend of removing poetry from academia and returning it to the voice of the people and the places where the people, we commoners, gather. 

The poet Richard Blanco, who was Obama's 2012 inaugural poet, also calls for a national movement where poetry is embraced as the language of the people and the great poets are honored as they are in Cuba, the land of his birth. 

My winged words box, a postal box painted by my friend Karen with images of birds and butterflies, into which I place poems for passers-by and sometimes they leave poems for me and for one another, is a part of this spirit. 

You can read some of these poems on the rapid ride buses in King County. You can also read a new poem every day for a year at and you can read the poems you've missed at You can read my friend Kathy Paul's poem on April 3. Mine you can read (well, you just read it), and see my portrait and hear me read on June 15.

Don't worry. I'll remind you. 

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