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How to Have a REALLY Interesting Life….(and write about it, too!)

By Patricia Smith

I’m feeling irreverent.

Thinking back on my favorite moments at AWP (pronounced “awp”)–David Mura’s “Republic of Poetry” panel, during which I think I actually saw flame shoot from Martin Espada’s beard; the reading by an always elegant and fiery Rita Dove; Cave Canem fellows wobbling on chairs and spittin’ rhymes in the middle of the book fair; witnessing endless variations of the AWP “meet and screech” (“Ohmigod, omigod, it’s YOU!”); the surreal and sizzling WILLA off-site reading; and, on the last night, dancing in a 11,000 sq. foot gay dance club in the city’s warehouse district while several perfect specimens, including my new friend the NYT bestseller, shook their groove thangs on high-in-the-sky pedestals. (This last event was NOT officially sanctioned.)

But I think the coolest thing was all that sex.

Dutifully upright in their plush seats–clutching their cameras, tape recorders and green tea lattes, row upon row of giddy-eyed professors and grad students showed up one morning at 9 am (AWP translation: dawn) to sit in on a reading by about the many ways we get off and get it on.

And these weren’t cozily rhymed ditties about French kisses at dawn or the myriad joys of the missionary position. The naughtily freckled Dorianne Laux, sexy buzzcut Jan Beatty and the undeniably disturbing Sharon Doubiago served up gender-swapping, incestuous, back-bending, wall-scraping, gonna-be-in-traction-for-awhile, blowing up your cell, wildly orgasmic, rear entry, wall-climbing, say-my-name sex. The wide-eyed audience tried to maintain a professional, conference-like distance, but I could see many of them squirming purposefully, falling a little in love with their seat cushions.

Since I had been on the road for awhile, miles away from my loving hubby, attending this suggestive session was probably ill-advised. The whole affair, tackled before coffee, made me a little dizzy. But I’ve been ill-advised before. That’s me, heading for the cliff with eyes squeezed shut.

I had a delightful time, but the panel–and the huge early-morn crowd–got me to thinking.

Supposedly, poets have a hard time writing about sex. I know this because we spend an inordinate amount of time talking about how hard (oops) it is (oops). Our perspectives seldom vary (boy meets girl, up/down, up/down, light ‘em if ya got ‘em), and we’re pretty much forced to draw on the same ho-hum swirling cauldron of words to describe, deify or condemn the sex act. Don’t believe me? Stop what you’re doing and write two stanzas–one about the very first time you had sex, and one about the most recent time (if you cannot remember a recent time, please refer to my next Harriet missive, “When Life Blows”).

No dainty windblown haikus. No abstract nonsense comparing sex to a hunk of brie or rain pounding the roof of a bus shelter. Write away, but DO NOT use any of these words in ANY form: hot, breathe, breath, steam, friction, kiss, suck, lick, throat, wet, thrust, scream, come, came, coming, melt, anal, lips, honeypot, mouth, spurt, peter, grassy knoll, twat, blow, beaver, drip, squeeze, wang, snatch, canal, member, spew, jack-off, diddle, poontang, Oscar, fishbox, hard, disco stick, rod, soft, cornhole, balls, pr**k, dildo, schlong, pump, ass, one-eyed snack, lips, p***y, c**k, c**t, f**k, d**k, or, for heaven’s sake, certainly not ****. Oh, and “anemone.”

Especially not anemone.

I can hear the screaming throngs now–but I’m not reeling off this list just to give ol’ Harriet (bless her) a case of the vapors. I really want to know if it’s possible to write about sex without being woefully unimaginative and dipping into the well of dull, the pot of repetitive.

Get to work. I’m thinking this would make a great anthology.


Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 by Patricia Smith.