Monday, September 3, 2012

The Punks Are Writing Love Songs...and I'm getting braver.


I wish that, every now and then, I could put on some magical glasses and see the world through the eyes of a poet.

I want to look at something small and see something profound. I want to turn a moment into something monumental. And damn it, I want to do it with using just a few words. But that’s not who I am. My voice is that of a story-teller. If anything, I use too many words. My truth spills from me like champagne out of a bottle that’s been dropped down a flight of stairs. A poet knows how to cut right to the heart of something using imagery and powerful statements. I’m a writer, yes, but I’m no poet.

Elissa Ball has been a poet as long as I’ve known her, which dates back to at least junior high but possibly elementary school (you never know in a small town like Yakima). She’s also been into things like the vegan lifestyle and astrology and Tarot long before any of it went mainstream and before anyone in our hometown even knew what any of those terms meant.

Of course people thought she was weird in high school (everyone thought everyone was weird, and quite frankly I was too hung up on my own insecurities to even notice what anyone said about her). But Elissa didn’t give a shit, at least from what I could tell. She just did her thing and lived her life. We wrote for the newspaper together for a year or two before I headed off to WSU.

I didn’t hear anything about her until ten years later when I received a Facebook invitation to her book launch party. Not only do I do all I can to support anyone who dares to enter this treacherous field, but the event was happening six blocks from my apartment. So when the day arrived, I rushed home from work and met a fellow high school alum for happy hour before the big reading. The happy occasion took place at The Richard Hugo House, which I was thrilled to discover existed (and served wine).

I bought a copy of The Punks Are Writing Love Songs and skimmed through it briefly before she took the stage. All I could think was, Holy shit. This is gonna be good.

It was. The girl got up there and owned her words, and I drank them in like my glass of Syrah. I was blown away not only by the words she read, but the powerful way in which she read them. Reading Elissa’s poetry is like looking at the most beautiful picture of the most spectacular sunset you’ve ever seen, but hearing her read it is like being there and feeling the warmth on your face.

Until that evening, I’d been struggling with writing the memoir from the road trip we took two years ago. I was worried about being too honest, revealing too much. After all, my family will read it, and my mom is already horrified enough about the content of my blog. But watching Elissa read sex poetry in front of her father really put my worry into perspective. I’m going to be as honest as I need to be to tell the story. My mom can always go to therapy or something, but I will never get to tell this story again.

On that note, I hope one day I get the courage to write something as powerful and amazing as the statement “Do me like good weed on a bad night.”

Weeks after the reading I found myself on the beach at Madison Park, sunning myself with a mimosa and reading The Punks Are Writing Love Songs. I was feeling self conscious about recently once again losing my endless battle with those stubborn ten pounds, especially next to my svelte sexy co-worker. I opened right up to a poem called “Beach Bodies.”

“The wild hairs that comma your inner thighs have held council and agree: you are perfect,” it read, encouraging me to “take off your shirt. Live a little.” I did. And as I kept reading, I kept relating to what she had to say. And even though these poems were 100% Elissa, I kept finding things that I could relate to. And seriously, if you can’t find something you relate to in her book, you’re probably not being honest with yourself.

The Punks Are Writing Love Songs can be purchased here (through Blue Begonia Press, which belongs in part to our amazing former AP English teacher), and I highly recommend clicking that link and getting a copy. From the opening “How Did You Change” to the heartbreaking “Burn Barrel” to my absolute favorite “This Heart,” you’ll be grinning and nodding… as soon as you close your dropped jaw.

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