On Accessibility and Loving the Book; A Young Poet’s Confession

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

I want to start by saying there are some titles I think are brilliant titles and others I think are silly and/or misguided. I’m currently reading Linda Berry’s “The Lifting Dress” and Noel Crook’s “Salt Moon,” and as I look at both these slim smooth-covered volumes, I am realizing how much I am in love with these books (and their near-perfect titles). My love is not just for the poems they contain and how those words are affecting me, which they are tremendously. My love is for their shape in my hands, their fonts, the paper they have been made from. I bought both in a recent tour of the Northwest, which included stops in dozens of indie bookstores including Powell’s City of Books (which I could spend days in).

I am a two-fold adorer of the book; as a receptacle of the written word, which I value above many, many things, and as an object, an artifact, a constructed whole made so by more hands and minds than one can count. Each book records two versions of socially-mediated history— it contains the words of a specific, tailored, and fictional lens and it is the product of a specific socio-cultural time, and multiple individual lenses within that moment.

Such elaborate and fascinating things as books are hard to resist, as are the many wonderful independent bookstores that sell them. I am incredibly fond of that feeling I get when I wander into an unvisited bookstore, meander over to the poetry section, and become lost scanning the authors and titles for a glimmer of recognition, a spot of curiosity that proves enough for me to pull the book from the shelf. Inevitably, I end up with a stack of books I would love to purchase, if money and space were no object, and I am forced to choose. It’s a lot like picking a favorite Christmas or the best birthday you ever had— they are all so wonderful, and I wouldn’t want to trade one for any other…!

And this brings me to the point of this post; I am a regretful buyer at each and every bookstore because I can never justify purchasing all the books I would love to own. I live in a rented dorm room in Ohio, and I don’t want to purchase books just to abandon them with my parents because they will not fit in my shoe-box accommodations. Money is an object, especially because I am in college and expenses are many and often unexpected. And so I confess, I buy far fewer books than I want to, and I feel guilty for not supporting writers in their craft.

So, what does one do to feel better about such heavy buyer’s remorse, and to support the community of writers they feel they belong to? I have decided to try to become more active in the conversations and activities surrounding the accessibility of written arts. In plainer English, I will make a committed effort to go to every reading and performance I can find in my area, I will attend open mic’s where they occur, and I will give to this community my time where I cannot give as much money as I would prefer to.

This sounds like a very simple fix to what I hope is a commonly experienced problem, but I think it is more complex than it appears. When writers make a conscious effort to push their work into the world, they most often do so in written forms: lit mags, chapbooks, full-length books, broadsides. Readings are fairly common, but because they require more organization and more money to be put on, they are less readily available than in-print material. I think, by supplementing my support of print materials with extra time spent at reading and reading-like events, I will bolster support for a third kind of access to the written arts— the poet as the voyeur.

If you do not know of Sawako Nakayasu and her work with translation, then I strongly suggest you google her right now. I recently came across her work in a class which was assigned to read The Volta Book of Poets, an excellent compendium of contemporary writers from varied backgrounds creating fairly zany, less-than-traditional work. (Side note: if you want to expose yourself to kinds of writing you haven’t seen yet, pour through this anthology, and don’t skip the artists’ statements. It’s a blast.) She is a Japanese-born American writer and translator of people, mostly women, who have been forgotten by history and the suppression of artistic pursuits by various regimes and social structures. She is a brave, unapologetic writer who, in addition to promoting her own work and the work of others in text, is pushing her work into the world in ways that cross the border between in-text-only formats and traditional readings.

Sawako Nakayasu is my current idol for poetic accessibility because of her “open poetry studio” project in which she sat in an art installation for several days as the resident poet, the conduit for a/the/ muse(s), and wrote, only stopping for necessities like eating and sleeping. Visitors to her exhibit could receive unrevised, raw poetry (for a small fee), thus becoming part of the project as well as patrons of it. This worked especially well for Nakayasu whose work is rather “weird” by conventional standards and could be seen as inaccessible for its content and structure. But she has freed herself from that constraint by creating spaces and contexts in which she is the point of access for her work.

I hope that I can atone for all the left-behind books by becoming more active in this grey area where performance and publication merge. I want to plaster the walls of every coffee shop and the trees in every public park with posters for “projects” in which writers are allowing themselves to be the portal for their pieces. I have to believe that there is a way to combat the accessibility issue, and that the more access points we can provide the public, the more effective the written arts will become at reaching who they are serendipitously “supposed” to.

When I found books by Lauren Berry and Noel Crook, I also found one of Nakayasu’s translations of Chica Sagawa’s poetry. I stared at it fondly, wishing I could buy it, but knowing it was not as rare a find as the other two, knowing it was more expensive than I could really afford. Accessibility is not an issue of whether or not the words themselves are ones I can crawl inside and hide with for a while. Accessibility is who has the privilege to discover the writing they need, and whether they “own” that writing or not. I left it behind.


plane photoFaith Padgett was born and raised in the suburbs of Texas and is currently a Creative Writing/Spanish double major at Oberlin College in northern Ohio. Her poems have appeared in Hanging Loose and several anthologies including the Poetry Society of Texas’ student anthologies and the YoungArts anthology for 2014. She has won several Scholastic regional silver and gold keys, and was a semi-finalist in the Presidential Scholars program in 2014. When not working for Spry or writing, Faith can be found sipping tea with a book of poetry or walking through the prairie with one of her four adopted mutts. 

1 Comment

  1. Wonderfully put and good for you for supporting your art in every way.

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