Sunday, February 9, 2020

"People as stories performing like poems": Poet Julia Drescher Reviews Hezada! I Miss You

Julia Drescher

Words by Julia Drescher on Hezada! I Miss You
Here are just a few of the various nostalgias that we live with & work through that Hezada! I Miss You asks us to attend to: the frequently brutal nostalgias for a past we believe to be better than the present ; the nostalgias for what we are supposed to desire ; & the hopeful nostalgias (that break the heart too often) for a future where we are loved (& so accepted) for who we are.

Here is a book that gives in novel form—people as stories performing like poems (“Where did your death come from?”) Where language is velocity & mass whereby the turn of phrase is the continually changing way people fall into or out of collective speech, demonstrating how our vulnerabilities to each other can transform into our feeling with others.
Here, as readers, we are asked to attend to the cruelties (banal or otherwise) that we perform when we insist on reading people or towns or countries or times as contained, as only one thing. Which is to say the meanings we make to make ourselves feel like we have “a place in this world.” Too, the profound grief when making these meanings will no longer do—when what we think it means to have a place in this world might be the very thing that undoes us, that guts us.
Here is the circus as the representation of this crisis & the attempt to perform that crisis’ relief (if only for human beings).
Here is a story reminding us of what we forgot we knew: that the wonderful, the devastating, often walk this world wearing the same shoes.
Here in this book in your hands right now.

This is the story of how Julia Drescher came to read Hezada!
Or, how I came to befriend her
(by Erin)

Though I've not been a smoker for six years, some of my best friendships came from that aspect of my life. 

Julia Drescher and I used to smoke cigarettes between teaching classes at Flowers Hall on the Texas State University campus. We were adjuncts, knew it, and met in our rain boots and confusion as to how we came to be at this point of our lives. 

During one smoke break, she brought me examples of the journal she and her husband Chris had put together and she had stitched on her sewing machine. 

On another smoke break, she brought a glossy proof of the volume she'd put together with Chris, this time of deletion poems. I'd never seen a deletion poem before. I'd never met anyone like Julia before.

Another smoke break, she carried a handful of thesis statements.

Her ideas about whales.

News about moving to a different apartment.

Advice for her sister, but that I took to heart, about walking at night with 9-1-1 dialed into your phone so that all you have to do is push a button.

News that people were stealing political signs out of her parents' front yard.

Texas, she'd sigh. Then roll her eyes, which she can do without doing it. That's how wry yet calm her face can be.

She imparted wisdom about poetry readings. Have you ever gone to a house poetry reading? she wanted to know. I hadn't. She nodded. They look at your books, she said. It's a thing poets do. They wander around looking at your bookshelves. They expect to see their books there, too. She nodded as wise people do, as though to punctuate and assure at the same time. Ever since then, I wander my own house, wondering what poets would think of my books--if my selections would offend, irritate, bore.

In retrospect, I couldn't have stopped smoking in those years because it was the only way I knew how to keep seeing Julia Drescher. I'd drop by her office. She'd appear in mine. 
You ready? she'd say. 
Want one? I'd say.
Our offices flanked the entrance, hidden away by beautiful blue tile. The tiles were beautiful, so much so. But it's hard to tell the truth about anything around such tile.

So there we'd be, meeting on the low brick wall that runs outside by the stairs. 

We watched Lyndon B. Johnson appear, after many curious stages of his creation, from a pedestal to orange cones, and then, him, reaching out.

We were there when a group of students kicking hacky-sack appeared every day at the same time for a full semester.

We were there and there and there, trying to figure out where else we could be. We'd gone through the MFA program at the same time, but she was in poetry, and I was in fiction, and so we might as well have been on opposite sides of the country as far as shared events or shared classes went. The only class I had with her was the one to prepare us to teach 101. She taught me (the class) not to erase the chalkboard side to side. She demonstrated by erasing with one hand, pointing at her bottom with the other, then pointing at the invisible students who watched, amused or horrified. 
Erase vertically, she said. 
We laughed.
She smiled.
But I erased as she said, and would for the next thirteen years of my teaching career, from Texas State to Spokane Falls Community College.

Now she's in Colorado. I'm in Washington. Sometimes, a package will suddenly appear in my mailbox from her. A bookmark she's made. A collage-painting. A chapbook.

Now and then we'll exchange an email.

She wrote for the Summer Library Series (here); she wrote for the Book Your Stocking (here and here); I interviewed her about her newest book, Open Epic (here).

I asked if she'd review Hezada! I Miss You
She said she'd give it a go.

When she sent me the email with her words in it, I cried. 

Poets know your mind better than you think anyone will.
That is the danger and importance of poets.
That is Julia Drescher. 

And this is why I wanted to share her thoughts on Hezada! on this day, the day Awst Press officially releases into the world.


(P.S. If you are reading this on February 9, 2020, I hope to see you at the celebration of Hezada! today at 2 PM at Washington Cracker Building, 304 W. Pacific, Spokane.)