Jul 12, 2010

So I am now in Alaska, as part of the Low-Residency MFA program at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, as FACULTY no less, in a part of the world where one can get off a plane at 10:30pm on a Thursday and be met by bright, glaring sunlight. It is very odd, very gorgeous, and I am surrounded by Alaskans who mention strange little towns one must get to by plane and use the mysterious, up-to-no-good word "Arctic" with a shocking regularity.

My program didn't start till yesterday--a 12-day intensive residency that kicks off an academic year during which students are mentored over email from anywhere in the world and just to be clear i hope to be doing my mentoring from as many places in the world as possible--but I got here on Thursday night and was picked up by a fabulous lady named MARY who is a Pulpwood Queen extraordinaire and who, on Friday, took me to see the Portage Glacier, drove me through a conservation center at which I saw ELK and GRIZZLY BEARS, took me to meet with ladies from the book club chapter located in the WOMEN's PRISON--wonderful, aching-for-knowledge women who read and discussed Godmother last year and treated me like I'd swooped down straight from heaven, even making me a little welcome sign and signing it one by one and breaking prison rules to give me and Mary hugs--and THEN took me to dinner with a bunch of un-incarcerated book club ladies and THEN to a drag queen show at which I was brought on stage and, amongst other atrocities, examined for a tramp stamp. It was what I like to call A FULL DAY.


Then yesterday I checked into my DORM ROOM where I shall spend the next 12 days participating in and/or leading/giving many many workshops and lectures and readings and generally being up to no good with all kinds of suspicious writer types. I had lunch with Jo-Ann Mapson, who is the fairylike authoress who done plucked me up and brought me here--and the poetess Anne Caston, and then today was chock full of events including a keynote lecture this morning and reading this evening by the poet Kim Addonizio, who was FABULOUS and gorgeous and hysterical and who played harmonica and also surprised me by dedicating the following poem to yours truly, which I just done went and found for your reading pleasure:

Snow White: The Huntsman's Story

* * *

I took out my knife and held her head back. She closed her eyes. A deer crossed the clearing, stopped and turned. I thought it watched me, I think it watches me still ... I swore an oath: to follow orders, without mercy or pleasure. Even the part you think might have been pleasure- She wasn't a creamy girl. She wasn't a girl at all. She was my assignment. When I took the lung and liver they were warm. I brought them bloody in a bag to the queen, who thanked me and mentioned a medal. That night I left my quarters, crouched in the weeds and got sick. Think what you like: that I spared her, that she sang while keeping house for seven little men. Believe in the apple, the glass coffin without its covering flag, where she lay as perfectly preserved as Eva Peron until the prince came to carry her away. Of course he didn't carry her; the servants did. And when they stumbled over a tree stump- if you believe the story-the piece of apple, caught in her throat, popped out, a magical Heimlich. I can see it so clearly now: she sits up, the prince takes her soft little hand, and the evil queen trades her Ferragamos for cast iron sneakers. And I remember my place in the story. I let the girl go into those fabled woods, in winter, while the snow fell around us, white on her black hair, white on her blue Aryan eyes, white on her pretty, open mouth.


I would say more but I am completely jetlagged and will now collapse until the morrow, or possibly next week.

The end.