By Danielle Champiet-Coronado
Something mischievous this way blows and the room was afire with Halloween prose. There were ghosts and mummies and ghouls one and all, light-hearted humor and celebrations of fall. Great works they were and no, I’m not braggin’. Stories of woe and of hope and a bit about a dragon! Beware to those who say poetry has a stick up the bum, their short-sighted prejudice will cost them much fun.
How else can one sum up such an evening when creativity collides with humor? It’s like being there when David Bowie wrote ‘Let’s Dance’ or Kansas composed ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ or anything by Bob Dylan. I would say that this evening was a little less Dylan and a little more Weird Al. That creative energy flows like the wind and sometimes that wind has a crazy sense of humor that is rarely portrayed in the coffee house scenes in movies. A poetry theme wasn’t planned and never is, but that did seem to be the creative wind that was sweeping everyone up tonight.
As our laughter and clapping rang through the store, on-lookers would pause to take in the show. Not all poems were centered on Halloween. There were celebrations of the season and expressions that traversed the spectrum of emotions. I do love the mystery of these events. The surprise and sometimes spontaneity of what will be shared is a constant gift from the open mic readings. This night also marked a new chapter in the group’s book; new co-hosts. Well, for now it’s just one, me! If one is shy about reading a prose in front of others, there’s nothing like being co-host while filming the event for your blog to take your mind off of the shyness. It was a lot of fun and I do love the craziness of it all. In time, I won’t be the only one having so much fun. It is the goal of our brilliant host, David Hill, to have a few co-hosts. I can only say to anyone thinking about it; do it! It’s a blast!!
Merriment and jocularity is not all that we’re about. Our featured poet and author, Tammy Robacker, blew us away with her book, Villain Songs; a haunting collection of poetry that centers on some of the more trying experiences in life. Experiences that would shake you to your foundation and drop you in the middle of nowhere like a tornado, leaving you to pick up your home, piece by piece. Tammy is a former poet laureate, award-winning poet and recently completed her MFA in 2016. With all of those experiences and accomplishments, it’s no surprise that she was able to so eloquently express the feelings of pain, confusion, loss, longing and fear that arise from horrifying situations. Whether you’ve experienced abuse or not, topics of abuse stir up a mix of high emotions in us all and Tammy’s use of lighter words to so profoundly depict such harsh subjects I found to be easing. A kindness, such as using black and white film to soften the impact of a subject, it helps the reader to take in the whole experience.
As Tammy read, she shared a bit of history behind each poem, further enriching the experience and understanding of the audience. For me, I have always found it difficult to write about the more painful aspects of life, even if it wasn’t my own pain. I look at those feelings and situations and all I can see is mess and chaos. Nothing makes sense. For someone to be able to organize those into deep and poignant art, I can only see that as an incredible gift. Even if that experience wasn’t your experience, the emotion conveyed can still apply. That’s what I love about songs and poems; we can use them to say what we’re not able to at that time.
Villain Songs gives that gift of expression and connection, bringing attention to subjects like neglect and sexual abuse, subjects normally relegated to darkened corners and their victims shamed into desperate silence. At the opening of her reading, Tammy so insightfully drew attention to the fact that sexual abuse victims face a double-shame. They are shamed by their abusers and then shamed again and stigmatized by society as they are seen as through a filter of taboo, blame, or judgment and ultimately villainized.
I whole-heartedly agree with Tammy on that point as they are the only class of victims that experience that double-shame. If your car is stolen, society doesn’t accuse you of becoming a car thief. Battered spouses aren’t seen as future abusive partners. So why does that stigma only belong to the victims of sexual abuse? That is just one of many of the provocative questions that Villain Songs inspires and it’s one that is long overdue for a good answer.
For copies of Villain Songs, please click the link below or visit Barnes and Noble stores. On November 28th, we will be featuring two anthologies; Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women, and Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace. Guest poets and contributors to Veils will be Wayne Lee and Judith H. Montgomery!
F(r)iction by Mary Reufle, Mercedes M. Yardley, Hart Hanson and Karen Craigo (in store)
Rattle 57 (in store)