Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Writing Prompt Wednesday: the Past is Present

Cafe tables at the basement cafe of the Writer's House in Tbilisi, Georgia.  Image © Lori Gravley
True story:  In June 2015, I went to Tbilisi, Georgia to facilitate a course for Engility for USAID.  As I was walking the city the first day of my one week in Tbilisi, I saw a sign that said, "Tbilisi International Festival of Literature."  When I got back to my hotel I looked up the schedule.

Carolyn Forche, the first poet I ever saw read (at Florida State University in the spring of 1984), was giving a reading and several talks at the festival.  I decided to attend.  I got there early to have dinner in the cafe in the basement of the Writer's House and found her seated at the far table above, looking at her notes, drinking a glass of wine.

After a total fan girl moment, I introduced myself and we chatted for an hour about her work, about my work, and about the state of  our country (especially the increase in police brutality against African Americans and all Americans).

It was extraordinary to meet, after thirty years, someone who had had such a profound influence on my life.  I am a poet because of her.  Well, I was a poet anyway, but it was seeing her read that made me realize that people could make their lives out of the work.  I left our meeting thankful and inspired, but it could have gone the other way.  She could have been aloof and critical (I met Margaret Atwood in 1992).  She could have been shy.  Meeting her could have left me feeling hollow and ashamed instead of inspired.

So, what would your story be?  What person (famous or not) from your past would you run into half way around the world in an empty cafe?  How would it change you?

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