Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Google your Name

April is National Poetry Month and due to a mini-vacation to Salt Lake City, I have been away from posting; however, I am back with a windy April lioness roar. Also, I am thrilled to say that to honor this great month, I am teaching a class on Ekphrastic Poetry. Yup, as my dear husband would say that's e-k-p-h-r-a-s-t-i-c. The class is a month long course that I am team teaching with a good friend of mine and fellow artist, Kelly Hart, at the Missoula Museum of Art. The class meets every Monday for the month of April and last night was our first meeting. It was great. We have a varied, but small group and I was so thrilled by how everyone read poetry. None of the dulled lulling often overheard at poetry readings where it is a drone of da da da da da. Nope. Each person read with conviction, diction, and earnest interest. 

As for what exactly is ekphrastic poetry? It is poetry inspired by painting, sculpture, photography or any other artistic medium, even film. Ekphrasis can also mean when an artist is inspired by a poem which influences their creative process. My own father creates watercolors inspired by Robert Frost poems. As I said previously, my introduction to poetry began with my father's ability to deliver a Frost poem by memory while picking up kindling or watching the forsthia bloom. Seasons changed and withered with the iambs as naturally as the wind in our house. I feel so lucky that poetry began with something as basic as blossoms and as unpretentious as mud puddles in our front yard. I do not carry the talent that my father has in either painting or in his ability to memorize a collection of poems, yet I do believe I carry on his humble and human approach to poetry. 

Last night, during our introductions, I thought of my father. I began by talking about him and his approach to both watercolor and poetry instead of giving a litany of my personal accolades or accomplishments. It felt more natural and I wanted people to feel they could introduce their own personal interest instead of their education or expertise. Frankly, if someone wants to know more about me, they can google my name to see if I exist. This humble approach I think was effective last night, but this has not always worked well for me in the past. Humility isn't always the stance of choice for some. 

During my time in Missoula, I have had many job interviews. These interviews have been for teaching, writing, and for even being a substitute teacher. During every interview, there is usually some statement made by the employer such as, " I see you are a poet." Sometimes, I think they are saying, "I see you are a shepherd." I try to come up with some answer that is humble, yet honest about my pursuit in poetry. Yet somehow this usually works against me. During one interview, I was told, "As a poet, you are a risk at our publication." Wow. How I thought of myself with a beret and some semi-automatic slung over my shoulder and my laptop under the other arm. As if my byline would read Che Emilia, activist and risky poet. As if I would come everyday with a quick anger and a need to rhyme or heaven forbidden I might break out in a freak attack to alliterate all through an article. "Risk?" I asked. "Do you mind clarifying your word choice." I was informed that I would be a risk because of my training as a poet and not as a journalist. It seemed somewhat fair, but not quite worthy of the word risk.

There have been other comments made in job interviews when the employer sees I am a poet. My favorite of all interviews was during a position for teaching English as a Second Language. Now, I don't mean to fall back on my accolades in defense here, but I do have two certificates from Cambridge for ESL and over 10 years of teaching experience, but somehow that wasn't enough credibility for this employer. The job was for a month long course and no real guarantee for further employment after the course. The interview was over an hour and half long with two people grilling me questions about my teaching techniques. I will say, I like interviews. I mean when else are you asked what are your greatest weaknesses as a person? It is kind of fun to think of going into a room with complete strangers and casually discussing your inner most aspirations and trying to defend your existential dilemmas as why you have chosen the career path you have chosen. 

As the interview for the ESL job was winding down, one of the interviewees, who I will remain from giving his real name so let's call him Bob, asked me a question. Bob said, 

"You know Emily, I googled your name and I couldn't find your poetry anywhere?" 

Maybe it was hot in the room or I was tired of trying to talk about myself, but suddenly I saw myself in the film La Femme Nikita. There is a scene in the beginning of the film after Nikita, the main protagonist and female hit lady, is arrested and then taken to the police. She is sitting across a table from a police officer and is asked her name. She is tough, tired and one sexy French woman with a short skirt on. She takes a pencil and rises up and says, "Je suis Nikita" and jabs the officer with the sharp pencil in this hand. The symbolism is pretty straightforward and for a brief second, I wanted to just stand up and say to Bob, 

"I don't need to be on google to exist, you pasty bore." 

I wanted a retort that was bold and somehow risky. I wished I had said something, something strong. But I didn't say anything. Bob continued to say, "have you heard of blogging?It's really quite easy and it's free." I calmly responded, 

"interesting idea Bob, I'll look into that." 

Bob went on to tell me, there are many other ways to get myself "out there" besides blogging in the world of poetry. I graciously listened, nodding my head while envisioning myself as Nikita and Bob as you may guess it, the police officer. 

I didn't get the teaching job. I'm not surprised. But what I did get was a drive to do something for my writing like create this blog and try, as Bob said, "to get myself out there." So here I am. And I am asking all of my faithful readers, you ten lovely followers or anyone else out there reading this, to give me some feedback. Let me know what you think. What do you want to see, read? What do you think is missing here on the blogosphere or what do you think would make this blog even more successful? I want to know. Really. I don't think of myself as risky or even slightly leaning towards pursuing a career as a hit lady, so don't worry about your criticism. It is wanted. 

I began this blog from a desire to share my poetry and recipes with a humble approach in both pursuits. I think the best way to improve is to ask you, the reader, for some suggestions and feedback. Please make a comment on this page, or e-mail me at either emilywalterseitz@gmail.com or emsbleu@yahoo.com or we could even do it the old luddite way, by telephone. Until then, here's a poem. In honor of Bob and all of us who do things that aren't always on the Google.

Placing Her

There's no mirror in the sea. I google
my name to see if I exist and surf
waterless cities like Cash and Hoople
to find eighteen versions of myself.
I live in New Jersey and scream Wagner
at trains. Sometimes roosters brag
in my fourth floor walk up.
The best version of myself teaches preschoolers
to bend forks after nap time. I believe this
reduces crime. I want to call myself, ask,
do you believe in the myth of Emily Walter?
Forget about the nightmares of Katherine Hepburn.
Forget about my mother as Katherine Hepburn
alone in her underwear. I am more than
glass and less than the sea. I don't look like
either of them in a dress. 

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