A reading and some thoughts it triggered.

Dodie Bellamy reading at BAMPFA on Friday evening, 8 September 2017.

I don’t often go to poetry readings, but I heard two poets late last week. They are husband and wife. He read excerpts from a novel he wrote while a student. She read an essay to be included in the catalogue of a show on work by the late Ellen Cantor on the Cinderella story.

Earlier last week, I bought a set of colored pencils. I was inspired by my own drawings from childhood, which my mother saved. Here’s a typical example:

Cowboys attacked by their indigenous enemies.

I liked the way my six-year-old self drew with abandon. So I also bought a spiral drawing pad, smaller than the one above. Here’s my first drawing:

The drawing started with the rectangle on the left. As you can see, I haven’t made much progress.

Ellen Cantor’s drawings riff on the Cinderella legend, which she used to depict a terrible marriage — imagining Cinderella and her Prince “later.” In her version, the mother-in-law becomes the evil stepmother, I believe. The legend itself, or perhaps it was a story, is different from the Disney version.

Dodie Bellamy’s essay describes her first marriage. It related to the novel excerpts that her second husband, Kevin Killian, read. One of his protagonists was a kind of Holy Fool, and this was also true of Bellamy’s first husband. She noted that other essays in the catalogue dealt with Cantor’s art, so she felt free to range discursively beyond it.

Last Thursday, I had coffee with a friend who knows many more poets than I do. He mentioned the reading, although he didn’t attend it. I went not knowing what to expect. No, I think that I expected them to read poems in a more usual sense, but then I remembered Joanne Kyger’s contention that it’s all poetry in some sense.

But I was also struck by Ellen Cantor’s idea of using Cinderella as a starting point to explore what I assume to be autobiographical material. Jack Spicer similarly used Dante’s trilogy for a series of poems, I read. (I’m reading his lectures and collected poems.) Like Swedenborg, I get hints from “outside,” and, like Spicer, I’ve written down poems that floated into my head. Not long ago, I woke up with an injunction: “Paint the River of In-between.” I want to honor that in any medium that can be made to work. Looking at my drawing, I see that my protagonist is at what may be its headwaters.