This month I returned to the Eaux Claires music festival to recite some poems. The good people behind the curtain put a lot of energy into incorporating arts beyond music into the program. And it's awesome.
While last year was the over-the-top-this-is-your-life-Eleanor-Perry-Smith weekend, this festival was more, hey there festival attendees, let's have lemonade and bond over strange words I write on my couch. EXCIII offered me a quiet moment backstage with my boy Paul Simon, Wilco handshakes, and rapture in the woods with an amazing audience. EXCIV allowed me to reconnect with attendees from last year, have a poet duet with Wisconsin poet laureate Kim Blaeser, and relax enough to meet new buddies. Even cute baby buddies.
This year I wrote a poem titled Old Dominion with the people who attend the festival especially in mind. Aside from bleeding my heart out for people who care, other standouts were the stage in the round designed by the festival's humble hardworking Creative Director Michael Brown, along with a team of artisans and architects. It was a sculptural marvel.
Like everyone else, I didn't know the lineup until I arrived, and I was excited to see Pussy Riot on the bill. Nadya Tolokno is an incredible woman and inspiration. Here she is about to sucker punch 12,000 people.
Speaking of women who light the world, some of us read famous speeches to kick off Saturday's events. I chose "Solitude of Self," which was the speech women's suffragist and activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton delivered before Congress in 1892. When I finished reading, someone in the crowd came up to ask the name of the speech once more, then noted how depressing it was that Stanton's words were apt for our current national status.
I have loved reciting at this festival. I don't know if I'll be back someday, but it has been an honor to perform for those who were there. It's not just a place where people get bombed and show off skin, although that comes with the territory, Eaux Claires has been like summer camp where we all leave with unexpected buddies, new songs to sing, and a sense that we'll never be the same.