The first six months in Virginia weren't so bad but, when August came around and I missed my first Nationals since 1998, things began to shift. I came up to visit in the beginning of September, hosted the show that Monday and realized how much I missed it all. I'd not only walked away from my baby, which was hard enough, but I'd walked away from my friends. Mondays were my second home, my living room that welcomed all sorts of random people in every week, mixing with the people I held most dear.
When we decided to come back, I knew a big part of getting myself back to normal was getting myself back to Monday nights. When we left, I was extremely burnt out and desperately needed a break. I realized later that it was predominantly my increased involvement on the national scene, and the resulting frustration, that had finally pushed me over the edge. The whole PSI experience left me even more cynical and jaded than usual, but with the proper distance, I realized what a small part of my world it really was. It was the poetry that had gotten me in the beginning - seeing how it could change someone's life, giving them a voice they never knew they had, or just never knew how to use. That's what was important. The rest of it was either icing on the cake, or the crusty burnt shit stuck to the pan.
Once I knew I was coming back, I quickly jumped back in the saddle and Lynne and I began working on the Jan 13th show, the big 5th anniversary showcase that would kick off 2003 with a bang. Five years is a long time for anything but for me, it's a lifetime. The only other thing I've done nearly as long is be married. They actually run neck-and-neck as I took over running 13 on Monday, March 16, 1998, five days before I proposed to Salome at the Nuyorican. I actually read the first draft of the poem there that night! Beyond that, the Army is both the longest I've ever kept a job - 2 yrs! - and the longest I've lived in one place - 2yrs! - since Mt. Vernon.
Anyway, January 13th came together quick and it was exciting to be back in the mix. Just past 7pm, when we started letting people in, I had a moment of sheer terror as my nerves jangled, thinking what in the hell were we attempting to pull off??!! It came off great, though, and I finally got a chance tonight to listen to the recording. The handful of technical glitches apparent at the show didn't appear on the CD, though we did lose a couple of tracks to a plug coming loose or something. Overall, though, it was much better than I could have hoped.
I was especially overwhelmed by the amount of talent that crossed the stage that night, from the established guest poets to the newer members of the "collective" coming into their own. FWIW, I include myself in that latter group as I feel like I'm starting all over again as a poet. If there was anything that could give me the inspirational kick in the pants I needed, that night was it.
I have to remind myself that it's so easy to take what we have for granted, this weekly gathering of poets sharing our words, speaking our minds. There's places in this world - hell, in THIS country! - where what we have couldn't possibly happen.