Monday, April 23, 2007

Poet Tim Seibles' Recent Class at Busboys and Poets

DC Poets Against War was so kind as to give me a scholarship, so I was able to attend poet Tim Seibles’ recent class at Busboys and Poets on “Getting out of your head,” that is, writing in personas other than one’s own.
As I mentioned to DC PAW’s Sarah Browning (lovely name for a poet – think of Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How do I love Thee, let me count the ways”) I have only once, or maybe twice, tried being in someone else’s head in a poem. The one poem I remember writing, is trying to think like a dictator who hates women.
This was so very unpleasant, I told Sarah, I popped right out again.
In my short and long fiction, I am often able to inhabit male characters. Black Rice is one.
Seibles’ class was a great chance to also visit Busboys and Poets. That was my first time there. I always feel I benefit greatly from classes, and I now prefer one day classes.
I was surprised at how busy it was at Busboys and Poets, and the hordes of liberals there – I assume they are liberal, and the stacks of activist and anti-war, environmental books.
My activist and Burmese friends, make sure you go there at least once. There is talk that it will be moving from its current location.
One of Tim Seibles’ reasons for getting out of your own head now and then, all very good reasons, are:
“As writers, we become too enamored of our own voices. After all, we hear our own voices in our heads all the time. So it is good to go away and then when we come back, it is fresh again.”
I found the writing exercises we did in class extremely useful.
Imagine oneself an animal: I imagined myself the cockerel belonging to the Siamese prince – known as The Black Prince, Narasuan. As a boy, Narasuan was taken to Burma (Hanthawaddy) by the Burmese warrior King Bayinnaung, as a hostage after Bayinnaung successfully laid siege to Ayuthia. The Siamese boy and the Burmese crown prince set their pet cockerels to fighting each other, and the Siamese boy’s pet won.
You know that our domestic chicken is inherited from the colorful S.E. Asian jungle fowl. In Bali, in Ubud in the evenings, the fighter cocks are set in bamboo cages by the lanes, to get some stimulation. I tried to photograph their amazing colors through the bamboo. There were purplish reds, black and white feathers. Deep golds.
No wonder I saw toys of jungle fowl in the bazaar at Ayuthia and at Narasuan’s shrine. The cock fight was an omen that Prince Narasuan would later return to Siam and throw the Burmese out.
Tim Seibles’ other writing exercises were equally effective.
Then we all went to dinner. The (Thai) food we had was more visual than tasty. It was high on “verticality,” the food constructed on the plate like tents and skyscrapers. And it was a bit too pricey for someone like me, almost entirely educated on scholarships.
But the company was Great.
I can’t recommend more highly going to dinner with other poets.
For pictures, of the reading the next day, photos by Dave Phillips, (DC PAW’s Melissa Tuckey’s husband,) and photos taken at the dinner, by Ben Browning, Sarah’s son --

Take a Poet to Dinner! The real French fries, from real potatoes, at Busboys and Poets are superb.