Yesterday I treated myself: I went to a poetry reading. Normally, I am loath to schlep up to the north side of the city on a Sunday afternoon, but it turned out that my former student Marcia Pradzinski’s book release party happened during my son’s basketball game time, when I was schlepping anyway. It was meant to be! So I went and was rewarded with an enchanted afternoon interlude. I realized, once again, how uplifting art can be, and how much joy I get out of supporting a fellow writer, out of simply showing up.

Photo courtesy of Gail Goepfert (yours truly is sitting there enthralled
in the lower right corner in the black and gray plaid skirt)

The party was held at the storefront studio of artists Beth Adler and Alice George, in a red brick building with twinkling lights strung in the tall windows and white-washed walls hung with canvases and all kinds of fun artist supplies sitting about. (No red wine on the printing press, please!) It reminded me how much I love hanging out in artist’s studios. They are a most inspiring place to be, perfect for a book release party. Turns out gracious hostess Alice George also runs the Serious Play Poetry Workshop, where a lot of Marcia’s work came to fruition.

Photo courtesy of Gail Goepfert

The studio was crammed with about fifty people, a nice crowd for a poetry reading, which was heartening in and of itself. It was good to be there to support Marcia, and I felt welcomed even though I didn’t know anybody else and there wasn’t that much time to socialize before the reading began, and afterwards I had to rush off to pick up my son. But in the interim, sitting among strangers in a light- and art-filled space, it was grand to sink into Marcia’s words, to meet again, in her poems, her son Adam, whom I knew from the memoir pieces she used to workshop in my class.

If you’re into parenthood and family, love words, and appreciate how a few words can capture a lifetime, you will love Marcia’s poetry in Left Behind. Do yourself the favor and buy her chapbook, available at Finishing Line Press. You’ll support a wonderful poet while you’re at it, but really, you’re treating yourself. Marcia’s work is most accessible, exquisite and makes you wish you could muster that much attention to word choice, rhythm, structure, etc.

My favorite poem of her reading, incidentally, happens to be not about Marcia’s quirky son. Rather it is about the power of scent in keeping generations connected and present:

The Scent of Chicken

I watch my father bone perch at the dinner table:
     He edges a table knife between the flesh and spine

lifts the body away from the skeleton
     and pulls up the frail ladder of bones

that gave shape and structure to the fish.
     A ladder of years separates me from my parents,

but they stream back to me in the scent of alewives
     on the lake shore sands

where my father holds my hand
     on long Sunday afternoon strolls

or in the heady fragrance of duck blood soup simmering
     and baked bread waiting

for a slathering of butter spread by my mother’s knife
     and a chat at the kitchen table.

Even in childbirth, my belly splayed open
     to deliver my son

the ghost of a memory rises:
     I imagine the scent of chicken

but a told no cafeteria near here by the nurse
     as he continues to stitch and clean me.

Only weeks later when I visit a live poultry shop
     where I went with my mother does the smell convince me

that my mother was there
     at the birth of her grandson.

from: Left Behind, by Marcia Pradzinski
My favorite line: “a ladder of years”