by Pat McLean
OK, so what do you do when you hear that a writer, someone whom you have admired and dreamed of some day emulating her writing style since you picked up your first book by her, is coming to your home town and that you may actually get to meet her? Well if you are like me, once you stop hyperventilating, you gather all of the books that you have written by her, and read briefly through some of the pages, just to remind yourself of why you love her so much. And when the day comes for you to hear her speak, you put all of her books in your bag, and prepare to stand in line for however long it takes to come face to face with Edwidge Danticat at the Art Sanctuary event inspired by her newest book. “Create Dangerously.”
To say that the line and the wait were long would be an understatement. But as I said, I was prepared, not to mention, determined to meet her. So there I stood with what I think was every book she ever wrote, with the exception of her children’s book. Copies of The Farming of Bones: Krik? Krak!: The Dew Breaker: Breath, Eyes, Memory; Brother, I’m Dying; and After the Dance were clinging to my chest as if they were gold. I wanted her to see that I was
no casual fan, that her writing inspired me and breathed life into my own writing. Plus I was hoping that she would autograph all my books.
Well, as I mentioned, the line was quite long, and by the time I got up to her, there were still a lot of people waiting to purchase her new book and meet her, just like me. So without fainting, when it came to my turn I rattled on very quickly as to how I believed I was her biggest fan and had all the books to prove it, how prolific and profound I think her writing is, how I am a poet and a novice writer, and I know that she’s not a poet per se’ but her words are so poetic, and so on and so on…until she shut me up by saying, “If you can hang around until I am done with everyone in line, I will sign all of your books for you?”
OK! OMG! Will I wait? You better believe I would! And it was well worth it. Not only did she autograph each book with a different encouragement, and although I mentioned that I was a novice writer, she spoke to me as if I were a true writer. For that, I will forever be grateful.
I do not know yet if I like the title of Edwidge Danicat’s new book “Create Dangerously.” But I do know that although I write about many things, I consider myself to be a protest poet, a passionate poet, a poet who through it all speaks for the people. And because the days of black people waving our “NO ROGER, NO RE-RUN, NO RENT” signs to contest some sub-standard conditions that many of us have been forced to deal with in our day to day lives, I believe that we the artists, writers, painters, poets, musicians and others, have to pick to up where they left off. It is our responsibility.
In Edwidge’s own words, “There are people in this world this very minute who are creating dangerously; they are risking their lives for their art.’ That is the concrete meaning of “to create dangerously.” However, in a lot of other places, people are creating dangerously in a metaphorical sense. They are facing the basic fears that all artists have: failure, exposure, upsetting people with their words
I draw from the lives of real people I’ve seen struggle, triumph, and do their best in spite of a society that has so many strikes against them.
I could go on forever about what I admire about this woman, but for the sake of space and time, I’ll be brief in closing about one of them. It is her beautifully written stories, featuring women in difficult lives. I particularly enjoyed the epilogue, “Women Like Us,” which has a sense of a recited poem to it.
Are there women who both cook and write? Yes. Kitchen poets, they call them. They slip phrases into their stew and wrap meaning around their pork before frying it. They make narrative dumplings and stuff their daughter’s mouths so they say nothing more.
So I will say nothing more except to all writers and readers of writers: read so that it sticks with you. Read so that you can recant important, smartly-written lines. Write so that each word is gold, earning its place on the page, as if it’s the last page you’ll ever create.
What we do with ardent, deliberate intent means more, leaving us with a deeper memory of the experience. Let books become a part of our being, not some paper cup we drank out of for a little while.