Last Sunday’s theme for A Rrose in a Prose was “Finishing What You Started.” That theme came to me initially in a fit of white hot anger about a month ago: the previous month’s event had four cancellations by different authors/poets, most on the same day as the event, most with the really lame excuse “I couldn’t think of something that fits your ‘Exhaustion’ theme.”
Really, guys? As though it wouldn’t have been really funny/awesome to show up and say, “hey, I was just too TIRED to write anything new, so here’s some rad old stuff that this audience will love.” As though we have ever really used “theme” as more than a starting point. As though it’s not frustrating as hell to plan an event and then have huge gaps in the line-up, with no time to fill them. As though it doesn’t make me feel like an absolute fool when so many people whose talents I respect treat my event like it’s a joke or a toss-off, to the point where it makes me want to just stop and never host an event ever again. As though that doesn’t feel like the worst kind of rejection. As though that doesn’t make me wonder whether I’m just wasting my life, slapping mud pies around in a sandbox while all my peers have children and marriages and love their careers; meanwhile Dan with the Peter Pan syndrome is fooling himself that the twenty people he cajoles into coming to his events are getting anything out of it that they couldn’t get better from chilling with a coffee at Stories (or, better still, a beer at Footsies on a good DJ night). Maybe it’s all fucking bullshit. A waste of an afternoon. A waste of my life. A waste. A waste.
And then while I was stewing in my own anger and self-pity, something that actually matters happened. A writer, a fan of A Rrose in a Prose who never came and read, who had even more anger in her heart than I had, up and died between the last event and this one. She’s dead. Gone.
She, too, had made plans to come read at A Rrose in a Prose, someday. But now she never will.
I didn’t know this person well. But she had the kind of personality that you don’t forget, and which you’re glad is in this world, even if you can see that there’s a lot of rage along with the joy. She was young, and she died in a way no one is really talking about. But the clues are all there. She was in seemingly good physical health, and seems to have died at home, which likely means one of two things: either she made a mistake with drugs (perhaps misdirected by a doctor, if not by a dealer) or she made a decision to end her own life.
And I realized that my little “Finish What You Started” theme was going to be about more than four authors who bummed me out last round. I think I always knew it would be. 2014 has been grim, and this friend/fan of A Rrose in a Prose was not the first person I’ve bid adieu unexpectedly. I can’t even wrap my head around it really. I’ve seen a spate of suicides and attempted suicides among my friends and the artistic/boho community at large. One friend even jumped off a bridge onto the cement below… and somehow lived! What the fuck is happening? Why can’t I/we make it stop?
And I don’t know what the answer is. But maybe I’m not asking quite the right question. Maybe I shouldn’t be asking that question, but rather shouting from the mountaintops that, hey, life is for the living, and we got to live while the livin’s good!
And we have to get things done. I know that despite how much I feel like I work, there are many things in my own life, and in all our lives, that I think we’ve been putting off. If there’s an inspiration we can glean from those who have passed on, it’s in part that we need to make our own time count. It’s time to finish what we started.
And, of course, I’ve already been a hypocrite.
Look how many days it took me to get this little poem up. This was the group poem we all wrote together at the end of the event in a Dada fashion typical for our little group. And I do mean “little!” It was actually a very well attended Rrose, but by the bitter end, we had few participants left to poeticize. I had everyone think of something they have left undone, and I had them construct in their minds a one sentence story about what it is they need to finish. And using that sentence, I had them choose a specific word from the sentence (not of their own choosing) and with that, we constructed a new work.
Those participants still here were definitely STILL HERE. They had not only life, but a magic about them, as I think this poem attests. You can hear it on the new A Rrose in a Prose Soundcloud account, too. But here is my attempt at parsing it together on the page.
I really like how it turned out! If you helped write this poem with the group, I’m very glad you stayed till the end. Thank you for finishing what you started.
-D. M. Collins
P.S. About my frustrations in the opening paragraphs above… Yes, I understand that many people do really have to not attend a literary event sometimes, and sometimes they don’t even know it until it’s the day of the event. Sometimes people have to leave things early, or show up late. Sometimes they only do their own little part and skip watching anyone else. Hell, sometimes people flake and don’t even bother ever apologizing or telling you they’re not coming.
And sometimes, maybe many times, I have done all of the above to others.
In my life, certainly, yes, many times. And many times it’s been done to me.
And it’s not optimal.
But it’s okay. Life goes on.
And I love that life goes on.
Please, stay in it with me.