I went to a memorial poetry reading on Wednesday night, to celebrate the life of a local poet who recently passed away.
I dig funerals. I don't mean that to be morbid. It's not like I'm crashing parties at the mortuary on the weekend or anything. I just think they're really truly important. Most of those near and dear to me have heard me rant and rail on this topic before, so I'll keep this brief, but a funeral is an opportunity for the living to take care of the living. When a community -- be that a family, an office, a church, or a whole mess of people that have been getting together to read poetry once a month for time out of mind -- comes together to take care of each other in a time of trial, well, it's one of the most important things we can do for one another as human beings. Don't miss that opportunity. Or that responsibility.
And this was a good one. Every person who stood up, either firm on their feet or with shaky fingers, had a bit of goodbye to say, and a little bit of Pat clutched in their fingers; her words immortal on a page.
In essence, Pat spoke her own death. We read her poetry together and heard about her childhood, about moments from life, about the people she lost, and the people she loved, and the latter far outweighed the former.
I didn't know Pat in person as well as I knew her on the page. She wrote beautiful verse. I once spent an afternoon chatting with her about her life, during which she told me stories that were almost too fantastical to be believed and yet were the straight-up, honest truth. And she completely won me over at a reading a few years back, when this tiny 85-year old lady stepped up to the mic and said, "I just went and saw this movie called, 'Black Swan', and it was so terrible I had to write a poem about it." (All the ballerinas in the house say, "Yeah!")
This was a good celebration, and I'd venture to say that everyone who went is the better for it. Props to Allegra Silberstein, local poet, loved friend, and a very classy lady, who put this thing together.
And folks, here's to Patricia Hickerson. She was one hell of a lady.
Pat's got a couple of poems in the latest Yolo Crow, which she submitted to us just before she died. It's due out next week in bookstores and at least one humble little website near you. If you didn't know her, it's not too late.