Friday, February 22, 2008

the unsuspecting poet

We met Darren through his writing first. We were sitting around the Black Swan bookstore one cold and stormy night when we the author of "The Paper Airplane Engineer" surfaced in little fits and starts through 5 double-spaced pieces of ordinary white paper. We were simultaneously curious and relieved to find a submission for the fiction contest that didn't suck, bore, need massive editing or an immediate call to the suicide hot line. Who was this masked man? Well, after he won second place (which was a horrible travesty and a major nudge to never again use nincompoops for judges) I called to interview him and mostly I remember that he made me laugh. Hard. He'd won the Virginia Commission for the Arts Fiction Prize and bought a couch with the stipend. Other wacky, funny stuff. He was very modest, self-effacing and goofy too.

The first time I ever saw Darren, I recognized him from the back of his head. He was about 10 rows in front of me in the auditorium at the Library of Virginia's James River Writer's conference. From the cocked way he held his chin, the earnest yet mocking look on his face when he turned around, the blonde goatee. It couldn't have been anybody else. The next week we made a unanimous decision to give him a trial run (we had an elaborate and crazy but foolproof system for trying out new potential group members including but not limited to monkey masks and black balls). Our round table discussion that night has gone down in the annals of writing group history- scatalogical jokes were made somebody cried, somebody quit, sparks flew, etc. etc and with that Darren was in.

How is it possible that there was a time we didn't know Darren? Last night, his poetry reading in the lower atrium (I do not know what the hell it's really called) of the Virginia Museum was subtle magic. Have you ever seen a 6 foot 5 baseball player read poetry beautifully? Death by fire, Persephone, the siren's song, bad god-lovin' license plates, thrushes and sparrows, a state of Henrys, vodka, apples, broken bottles of wine, death, love- you know the good stuff. It wasn't too long; it wasn't too short. And he didn't have on a turtle neck or a beret or read in that terrible monotonous sing-song voice that gives poetry a bad name. And he read a poem that made it OK to hate poetry readings, but truly, I think I can say this for all of us, last night, nobody did.


  1. I am commenting on your blog so that you know I am reading it. I need to be invited to some of these events you go to. If I am truly living a creativity as a spiritual path type of life then I must have more artist dates with myself. Plus it would help to get away from this house and these darn kids and him on occasion.;)