Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ambushed by Joy and Urgency

I thought there is no finer thing ever to happen in a man's life but to have a woman fall in love with you...

Today is the second day of National Poetry Month, so the Visual Arts Center was offering up a poetic treat in the form of Steve Scafidi reading his work.

It happened at 5, just as the pounding rain ceased and sun began streaming through the skylights of the VAC's reading room gallery.

Scafidi began by opting out of using the microphone, saying that he was "naturally kind of loud and proud." In fact, he did project well and it was a pleasure to hear poetry read without amplification.

He recalled being nineteen and coming to VCU. "All I knew was I loved poetry and found myself surrounded by people who took the art of poetry seriously."

The line above about no finer thing happening is from "Ten Letter Word for a Lucky Man" and refers to the first and last name of a man so lucky as to have had a woman fall in love with him. Go ahead, gentlemen, count out the letters in your name and consider if your ten letters stand for a lucky man.

Explaining that he thought many of us, including himself, had fallen in love with Lincoln, Scafidi said he was 250 pages into writing a magical biography of the man.

A co-worker at the cabinet shop where he works replied skeptically, "You mean you're making it up?" He then read "The Cavalry," certainly a magical tale of sky-bound Appaloosas on the eve of Antietam.

"Witness to the Work" was a tribute to his wife giving birth and "Naked Sunlit Afternoon with Vultures" about the creatures so familiar from his childhood near Virginia's mountains.

Just as beautiful as his poetry was his explanation of why he writes. "How much of poetry is obsession? The things you can't turn away from? Solving something in my head so I could move forward? It's the urgency."

He closed with a poem he wrote for his daughter, "To an Old Woman in the Air," about the future and intended it to be read when she's an old woman and he's long gone.

I am hoping days of unexplained joy ambushed you at every turn...

I am hoping that such beautiful words set the tone for National Poetry Month in Richmond, described by Scafidi as "The one city on earth that said yes to me when I needed it."



  1. The room was redolent
    Wine, smoke and your perfume
    Taste lingers, clouds dissolve
    All that remains is you

  2. Poetry will get you eveywhere. Thank you.