Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Leaving Staunton

Sometimes you discover a piece of poetry at the perfect moment when your world aligns with the concerns of the poem in such a way that you experience that delicious delusion that the author wrote this particular poem just for you. I had that serendipitous pleasure the other night when reading Allen Ginsberg’s My Sad Self.

Ginsberg opens the poem with a recollection of observing New York City from the roof top of the RCA building through eyes ostensibly made red from weeping. The sorrow comes from the loss of treasured eras in one’s life – and – the inevitability of those losses. The poem is remarkable. Ginsberg’s typography reinforces a sense of an inner eye meandering down city streets and memories of love affairs and friendship. I find myself, of late, indulging the same sort of exquisite nostalgia that permeates My Sad Self. I am about to graduate with my Masters of Fine Arts and leave the town of Staunton, Virginia.

Staunton is a beautiful little town filled with old Victorian homes in various states of repair. The skyline is littered with steeples. Church bells pronounce the hour. Trains whistle through the night. Yes, there is a troubadour. A chalk graffiti artist has tagged the underpass in my favorite park with the word “LOVE.”

I have experienced a lot of love in Staunton. I directed five plays here. I assisted in some capacity on a half dozen others. I found a handful of kindred spirits: the kinds of collaborators who will fight you because they are going to stand by you over the long haul. It is here that my ear has begun to tune itself to the music of Shakespeare’s meter; that I wrote my first soliloquy. 

And now it is time to go. Another poem comes to mind: Shakespeare’s Sonnet 110. –“Alas, tis true, I have gone here and there / And made myself a motley to the view.” – The arts make for a nomadic existence. Sometimes literally. More than that though, the ephemeral nature of the work means a constant cycle of love and loss. Of course, that is part of the pleasure, the opportunity for reinvention. You have to be willing to start over. But sometimes that requires a mourning period, a time to retrace your steps, to reread the poem that Ginsberg may have written just for you. 

Photo from one of my sentimental walks

P.S. I was going to link to My Sad Self, however, none of the various poetry places on the web do the text justice in terms of the poem's layout. Find it in print.

Also, Staunton has gotten some press lately for its charm. Travel and Leisure listed it as having one of the "Greatest Main Streets in America" and the Smithsonian listed it as one of "The 20 Best Small Towns in America." Just sayin'.

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