Sunday, April 10, 2011

POETRY MONTH FEATURED POET: HEATHER BURMEISTER


In 1994-ish an Italian-Texas dyke cook named Lisa took a tiny inheritance and started a café in South Austin called Forray’s. Remember Forray’s, y’all? It had maybe half a dozen tables, a long counter, limeade that restored electrolytes, and best eggs ever. I more or less lived there.

On Sunday afternoons there was a wimmin's poetry open mic, and that was where I began reading my work in public. And it’s where I met the magnificent Heather Burmeister, whose verse always reached out and grabbed us by the effin’ throat. Because of that experience, I was emboldened to read at my first AIPF open mic, at the old Electric Lounge, where I had a five minute slot doled out by a cast-iron timekeeper who cut the mic if folks ran over.

It was unbelievably hard to face a crowd of strangers and give voice to my new, untried stuff. I was sweating so much I felt basted. I don’t remember the audience reaction. I fled outside, where Heather found me and started to tell me I’d done okay. I leaned over and puked in the parking lot, lightly spattering her white converse high-tops that she had decorated with markers. She backed up a little but grinned her lop-sided way and told me to keep on trying, it got easier.

She was maybe 21 years old, and already had a lifetime of experience tucked away under her spiky hair. She eventually was taken on by Ntozake Shange for a mentorship, which surprised none of us. She has stayed real, and kind, and smarter than most folks you’ll ever meet. Here are my two favorites of hers from the Forray’s era:

ON WRITING

this is the way I sing
this is the way I photograph
and this is the way I keep dead people alive
this is the way I remember what I might forget
and this is the way I report my history
my story my lazy eavesdropping
what I find in my line
of vision


ACTION

I am taking action against fear
I turn on the lights
I open my eyes
I light another cigarette and
sit up all night listening for him


© Heather Burmeister, 1995

1 comment:

Latha Vijayakumar said...

Your blog is so nice and the reading is enjoyable