In Java’s, April 21st 2007

I’m currently sitting in Java 101, the local coffee shop. The little room isn’t crowded yet, but there’s a coffee house later tonight, so it’ll probably get more so soon. It’s Jazz tonight, though, and the Houghton community doesn’t always appreciate that, so maybe it won’t be too bad.

Even now, there are people I know filtering in, and I’m involuntarily drawn to listen in the conversations happening behind me. Don, the Choir’s assistant conductor, and Dave, my professor for Linear Algebra, both work part time here as Java Jockeys. I have their calls of Lemon Zinger, Orange Frap, and Baha Breeze Smoothie to ignore as well. This last is especially hard for me, because there are few drinks I relish as much as a fruit and yogurt blended in the correct proportions, with whipped creme on top. I do okay without one, though. They cost some $4.50, which is half the cost of a book of poetry, so skipping on two effectively gets me a new source of inspiration–something far more valuable.

These past weeks have been good for writers. The Lanthorn (it’s pronounced Lantern, but I forget sometimes) came out with a bang on monday. It’s the school’s literary magazine. Two poems of mine got in, but only one I really liked. There are three girls behind me reading the thing, and I confess a secret desire that one will turn to my Written for the Roads in Houston, and read it aloud. I’ve been complimented on it, but I would sometimes would rather hear someone else read something of mine, then comment on it. I feel a little like a voyeur, listening carefully to their conversation, occasionally cocking my ear to hear above the laughs of the ROTC folk to my left, but I’m not going to let myself feel guilty. I want to know what they think of things, and I’m to shy to simply go and join them in their conversation. I don’t know them, and they sound like they wouldn’t be comfortable talking poetry with someone they don’t know. I’ve asked a few friends if they want to get together to talk shop sometime, but I’ve yet to receive any responses.

The Writing Conference just ended at Houghton College, this afternoon. There was a good collection of writers here: Susanna Childress and Jean Janzen were the poets, which was very lucky for me. Two strong poets, there, of two very different styles. Jean (I feel odd, calling her by first name, but a last name reference seems too formal for such a nice lady, and full name takes to much space) is a poet I feel comfortable with, which is valuable in today’s day and age. She seems to think in the same way that I do, especially when it comes to Theology and the workings of the world, and captures our communal thoughts in ways that I envy. Susanna is the opposite, she makes me intensely uncomfortable, but in a way this is much, much more important. We’ve had very different lives, the two of us: my father is both my greatest role model and a man who loves me dearly, hers is clearly not. The way we look at everything: sexuality, violence, men, women, humanity in general is wildly different. When I first read her book, Jagged With Love, I felt a little like a voyeur (in a more negative way than listening into the conversation behind me does–they never read my poem, by the way). Then we discussed it in class, and I read it again, enjoying it more the second time. Having heard her read it on Thursday night, though, it clicked, and I understood why the poetry worked. I am now awaiting her next book eagerly. She’s thinking of writing a novel, or so she says. I would love to be able to help her in some way, but I don’t think I can really. I’ll look forward to that as well.

Leslie Leyland Fields was the writer representing creative non-fiction. I didn’t identify with her as much. She was in the genre I admired the least, but I’ll have to forgive her for that. Don’t misunderstand, please: her prose is fantastic, among the best I have read. I purchased Surprise Child out of duty, but hearing her read it in chapel makes me look forward to reading the contents, as opposed to dreading it.

Larry someone-or-other was the Editor, there, and he shared a great many important things. I can’t even remember what publishing house he was from. I’ll have to find out, because I’m interested. Perhaps after graduation I’ll go into publishing. Working with Bob Hudson from Zondervan this summer will no doubt help me towards that end. It would seem to me that if I can’t support myself on novels as I’d truly like to do, working with language in any way would be a delight for me. Perhaps an editorial position until (I tell myself over and over that it will be an until, that it will happen someday) I can support myself on novels and poetry and articles and any other clutter my voice ends up coming up with would be good for me. Immersing myself in language won’t be able to hurt, in any case.

The three ‘woman writers’ of the conference had a panel at the end, about the role of women writers in the modern world of writing. I entered dreading it, with images of men crucified with their arms spread up in a bloody mock of the Village People’s Y, the same as my gender’s accursed chromosome. I’ve attended panels of women-writers before, and left feeling feeling accused. Ashamed, I admit awareness of the sins of my own sex, along with the sins of my skin color, my country, my ancestry, my very humanity. But I’d like to think that I have raised myself up at least a little from those, and I am a better person than those that make social movements necessary, and I have known one to many women-types who accuse me based on genetics rather than spirit.

I left relieved, inspired, even moved. I have never heard such a reasonable discussion on anything regarding gender before. And it really was discussion, not debate, as I was so used to any gendered discussion being. But even more than that, I felt respected throughout the conversation, even loved. I was not nailed to my gender through my hands and feet, and I didn’t feel a crown of sexist thorns through the entire thing.

Susanna especially impressed me. I was most nervous of her, I think, both because on the ignorant first readings of Jagged with Love, I saw the potential echoes of a radical feminism (a thought that was driven out by the second reading, I should add), and because I had seen her loose appetite at lunch merely hearing a vague story about a misogynistic writer. My stress was unfounded, and I never once felt uncomfortable or judged around her. I’m not even sure if she would define herself as a feminist. There is a feminism to her, though, of a sort that builds great respect in me. Hers is a feminism that, should the rest of the women of America adopt, their cause would be reached far sooner than any would imagine. I would pray for that to happen.

Jazz will be beginning soon, and I should like to post a poem or two as well. The girls behind me never reached my poem, but this suddenly doesn’t seem as important to me. I’ll post it on here, and allow the world to read instead.

Goodbye, The World.

~David King


1 Comment

  1. Cameron Gayford said,

    May 18, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    My dear friend, your prose sparks a certain jealousy in me. I wonder why it is no one can see into who you are without these words of yours to open a way. That aside, we never got to talk much about the writer’s conference, which I still wish I could have been here for; nor did we really talk much shop over coffee as we’d planned. And why didn’t you mention those poems were in the Lanthorn? You’re a sneaky fellow, Dk.

    All the best,

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