Friday, November 24, 2006

Ad Astra 2: Laureate Miscellany

Announcement of the poet laureate position--even though I won't move into it officially until July 2007--has been more of a change than I expected. For the most part, my work life does not center on teaching creative writing. Occasionally through the years, I have been able to teach one class a year. It's been three years now since I last taught it. My colleague Trish Reeves is a wonderful poet--winner of NEA fellowship and Cleveland Poetry Center Award for her first book--and she is a great teacher. So my own writing and public activities are usually outside Haskell Indian Nations University. Many folks there just do not realize my involvement, so it's been like exposing a double life in a way. This most private art form, lyrical expressions of feelings and thoughts, is also paradoxically public. After reading, I often feel like I've turned my self inside out and feel very vulnerable. That feeling is exaggerated now.

I feel more pressure to perform well and write well. Of course I am the same person and poet I was before the announcement! I am quite mortal.

Another miscellaneous thought--this position is so unique, with no analogous position for other writers or occupations--that few people seem jealous of me. I keep telling well wishers there should be laureates for other occupations!

And I am so touched by letters of congratulations that appear in the mail from friends, neighbors, the Lied Center, my state legislators, and others. I did not expect this level of public scrutiny!

One of my favorite stories of myself is years ago after publishing one of the very first things, I went to the Spencer Research Library to find a review of it. As I signed in, the librarian asked if I was THE Denise Low. I puffed up and said yes. My children were with me and were impressed. When the librarian brought out the magazine with the review, it turned out to be somewhat (okay pretty much so) negative! I deflated pretty quickly. So the laureate-ness is a nice moment among a spectrum of many many kinds of moments.