This weekend was the 21st annual Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway, hosted by Murphy Writing Seminars. As always, it was an incredibly fruitful weekend, during which I immersed myself in the work of four other poets as we helped each other de- and then reconstruct full length collections of poetry. It was a wonderful experience.
On Sunday evening, Stephen Dunn and Tony Hoagland gave a poetry reading. I could ramble on about how amazing the reading was, but I won’t – if you have seen Tony or Stephen read, then you know that they are brilliant, top-tier poets, among the most talented and relevant living American poets.
I will, however, say that Tony read a new poem that moved me in a huge way. It’s titled “The Roman Empire,” and in introducing it, he explained that it addresses a moment between a man and a woman – not a romantic moment, but rather the moment when a woman passes a man on an otherwise deserted street. She is nervous or anxious, and he can sense that his presence is the reason for this. The poem addresses this awareness by the man.
The poem was lovely and necessary. I have spent so long being aware of (and focused on) the part of the narrative that acknowledges the woman’s fear and anxiety. So much of our cultural conversation is centered on the idea that women must take precautions, women must alter their behavior, women must be aware, always. My krav instructor even commented on this once – during a drill in which he acted as an attacker roaming the room, he noted that I always knew where he was. “Why is that,” he said, “Women always know exactly where people are.”
But in being so focused on the female side of this dynamic, I entirely failed to consider the other side – the male perspective. It seems so simple, such a basic concept. And I’m sure one could argue that we shouldn’t worry too much about it, that living in the culture we do, where all types of violence are so prevalent, makes it excusable that I would lose sight of the other side of this dynamic.
But this was a moment for me – a life changing moment. It’s so rare that we have them, and know that we are having them in the moment. But I felt that last night when Tony was reading. I was near tears, and I just felt like there was a window opening in my chest and all of this anxiety just fell out of me.
i am working right now toward becoming a Krav Maga instructor. The plan at the moment is to go in March for a week-long immersion course, where i will essentially do nothing but train. If I am successful, I will come out at the end of the week as a certified instructor, able to teach classes. As part of the preparation process, I had to write a short purpose statement, explaining my motivation for training and for completing the certification. Among other things, I said this:
It is really important for me to directly acknowledge that Krav is a specific kind of mental challenge for me – it forces me to be vulnerable in ways that make me pretty uncomfortable, but I believe that I’m emotionally and mentally stronger for it now. I want to continue to push myself in that way because it represents for me a kind of healing that I don’t think I could have found in another discipline.
I forgot, though, that poetry can be healing too. This weekend was a good reminder, and I will carry this poem with me as I move toward the Krav training.