Saturday, June 2, 2007

Manifesto (p. 12)


Nikki Rainey

Saturday night, I babysat Anya and it took her forty five minutes to fall asleep she’s really nervous about sleeping. I told her a very prolonged, cleaned up version of the Twelve Dancing Princesses and then sat patting her back for what seemed like hours.

I think: she can’t actually be paying attention to this ridiculous shit, I add adjectives “luxurious gown,” “melancholy visage,” I wonder if she’s scared, or if she thinks I’m insane, or if she’d really like to believe that she’s a princess sneaking out of her room every night to muck around with handsome phantoms in an underground ball.

I have this childhood memory of telling myself stories when I couldn’t sleep, hoping the stories would turn into dreams. Now I’m a grown-up and I teach poetry to children as part of my job. I ask them, “write a list of three dreams you can remember.”

They write about:

1. boogers,
2. wrestling (specifically John Cena from the WWF),
3. traditionally inanimate objects violently eating their friends.

This is what they always write about, except for one teacher-pleasing little girl who writes about wanting to be able to fly, and God I love her for it. But I can’t blame them, it’s after school, they’re being smart, being funny, and making up good lies to get someone to laugh.

If they were grown-ups, I’d tell them my Manifesto:

* Letters from Wally and Julia are just as brilliant as any famous novel.
* All good writing (not just poetry) uses images and sound.
* In spite of an obvious love for innovation/sophistication/cleverness, no fair forgetting the original bone/primal love of resonating with stories
* I secretly still think boogers are funny.
* I believe in fearlessness,
* a desire for experiment,
* boredom when it comes to experiment
without purpose,
* dancing in underground balls.
* No one is famous anymore so fuck it
and just make something beautiful already.

Sadly, I am a miserable poetry teacher, so instead I say something vapid and grown-uppish like, “That’s hilarious, but could you show it to your mother?”

They roll their eyes and secretly we both know that some things are just not for your mother. Secretly we both know that skating the line between funny/nasty, fanasy/reality, singing/talking, waking/dreaming, grown-up/kid, John Cena/human, Anya/Princess is what makes writing fun, hard, and a powerful tool for liberation.

Post Script: I love ya’ll, come visit me in Wisconsin and be a guest writer in my class. We’ll pretend you published a couple of novels and impress the hell out of some 8 year olds. I don’t have a couch, but we can sit on my porch and tell each other fairy tales all night long.

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