After the ceremony at the ornate Cipriani banquet hall on Wall Street, an elated Mr. Hayes said he’s “bringing the National Book Award home to Pittsburgh” today when he intends to teach his noon class at CMU.
ETA: This makes it look like I think there is only one. I know there are more! I mean the poetry category in which his collection was nominated. Also, winning: Patti Smith! I am so pleased right now.
I gasped. I gasped! I first read a few poems of his in high school, and then met a friend who adores him at PGSA, and soon after that went to college where he taught. He was on sabbatical the year I was there, but his wife was my favorite professor. A classmate, a wonderful poet, and I sat outside in the winter once—I think, had I stayed, we could have become great friends—and she explained that she didn’t want to get her creative writing intro classes out of the way like everyone else was trying to do because he had extended his leave and she wanted to be in his section, and I couldn’t blame her at all. He’s a great man—and now an NBA finalist! I can’t believe it. His family and the department must be celebrating in Pittsburgh right now. Here is the poem that started it all—”At Pegasus.”
(And a fact about Pegasus I only just learned:
The nightclub was among the places researchers from the University of Pittsburgh formed The Pitt Men’s Study, the oldest ongoing study of the natural history of the HIV. Two years before the virus was identified, patrons of Pegasus and other gay establishments were given free beer in exchange for giving samples of their blood. The Pitt Men’s Study was the catalyst for the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force.
I sat down and tried to write something weighty about cleaning out my closet, a task I have devoted myself to for several days with little progress until an hour ago, but nothing came out. Maybe sometimes cleaning out your closet is just cleaning out your closet.
Tomorrow night, or tonight really, I am going into Bryn Mawr to see The Third Man. I am taking a class on it as well, and I am nervous—not because it is a real class, because it isn’t: it will be populated by the elderly, I am sure, and by people who know very little about the film, and I don’t expect to learn much. But it is the first time in months and months that I will be sitting in a theatre alone, or at least without a companion. In some ways, this makes me sad, because I had hoped when the film institute listed its summer offerings I would be able to drag a few friends to see this, to impress upon them just how much I love it, hoping that seeing the Wiener Riesenrad on the big screen would enthrall someone. (A few years ago, I attempted a viewing, and all but two people fell asleep, I believe. It was my own fault; I was careless and paid no attention to the time of day and the setting and whether or not people would be receptive, but I was so excited at the idea of people loving it that I let my enthusiasm get the best of me.) Mostly I am happy though, because there is nothing quite like entering a theatre where you know no one. It’s true that movies are a communal experience, and meant to be watched with others, which is the great shame of home entertainment and online streaming, but walking in and taking a seat alone when all you know is that the others around you, your faceless, nameless compatriots, want to see this too, is such an overwhelming feeling, and just as communal as a night out with friends.
Back at the old college, four nights a week the student activities board showed films for a dollar, three screenings each. The Thursday movies were usually recent indies, Friday and Saturday were usually recent blockbusters (mostly comedies and action movies), and Sunday tended to be cult films or classic sci-fi. At first I only attended the Thursday shows, and because of my schedule in the first semester, I always saw the last screening, which was at midnight or twelve-thirty. The Thursday films were always much less crowded to begin with, but the last showing was always dead. This was how I saw The Wind That Shakes the Barley: sitting in the middle of McConnelly, a large lecture hall, my feet propped on the seat in front of me, a small jug of milk and M&Ms on the fold-out desk, with three other people desperate to see this scattered among the other several hundred seats. Two of them were friends who had come together, sitting almost all the way in the front, and on the way out I staggered behind them, still wiping away the tears, eavesdropping on their conversation (said one to the other, “I don’t know if I saw that movie, because I spent half the time cringing and the other half crying”), and I grabbed one of the many excess copies of the student paper to carry over my head as I went outside into the rain to get home dry. It is a nice memory anyway—one I cling to, remember as a time when I was relatively independent and happy—but there is a sense of camaraderie that comes from experiencing the same thing, together. I hope tomorrow will be just as joyous.