It’s a happy Friday. I’ve just giggled over my coffee as Gore Vidal was speaking with Amy Goodman (on democracynow.org) about his new book, Imperialism and the United States of Amnesia. My poet colleague whose car was stolen and returned trashed with stereo and 150 CDs missing, is in bliss this morning since his wife gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Genevieve. Continuing the affirmation of life, my friend Z. is 5 months pregnant. More congratulations. And I woke up with the feeling that somewhere in this metro area of millions there might be a person interested in having an intimate relationship with me. All this and the sun hasn’t yet emerged from the fog.
Here’s what I read when I’m blue— student reaction papers from a Sonoma State University “Health, Sexuality and Society” class where I have appeared twice as a guest speaker.
The professor wrote, “You really got them this time! What a gift you have for the written and verbal art of sensual/sexual expression…Class members each write two opinion papers during the semester and the choice of topics is solely theirs…For students to devote whole papers to one thing is very special because the competition is tough. And you did it, with poetry to a class full of business majors no less!”
Excerpts from student comments: “When you announced that we would be listening to erotic poetry, I groaned internally. Generally, I despise poetry. Looking at her, I thought to myself, ‘How could this little lady write erotic poetry, she is as old as my mother?’ I was ready to tune out, but the second she opened her mouth, I was captivated. Her poetry was intense and powerful. I don’t think I would be able to tune her out even if I tried. I was very surprised at the effect her poetry had not only on me, but also the entire class. As I looked around the room, I could see that I wasn’t the only person who was being captivated by her awesome words. There was one poem in particular that actually gave me goose bumps…At first I found myself blushing a little, but when she got to the end, I was amazed! Her words were so strong and truthful. I liked her so much that later that day I went to her website and read more of her poetry. I am not saying that I like poetry any better, but this particular speaker was really able to get through to me and help me appreciate poetry a little more.”
“The dirty nasty connotations of her poems were beautiful. We think those things deep down inside, but never really express them. I guess you could say it was instinct explained, or at least to me.”
“I felt I was like a mirror to Jennie, as her voice and lyrics of her poems seem to vibrate with intensity. I would almost leap out of my seat, sitting more erectly, with the small of my back arched completely. It was like she was my lover I have never known, with me completely in the pitch of her voice, completely unsatisfied until the end of her poem. I remember thinking, Oh man, I don’t think I could leave my seat even if I wanted to! I was captivated, enthralled, stoned-like, captured by her poems and her locomotion of ups and downs. I have never heard anyone speak so well.”
“It seemed to me that this woman, who was maybe 50 years old or more, had the spunk and libido of an ex-swinger from the hippie era. Now to put my reaction to Jennie in perspective, at the beginning of class, I saw her and I just was not that excited. I would have listened intently just because of the novelty of a poetry reading because I have never been to one before. I certainly did not expect Jennie Orvino to be full of sexual energy in which she radiated as she spoke, nor her sexually explicit symbolism, nor her sweetened-honeyed voice. This husky, but not brutish voice and her instinctively knowing when to lay it on thick, to accelerate in intensity or to slow down to anticipation, hanging on to every word, every syllable as she spoke…
“When she started to read and we, the audience really did not know what to expect and some girl in the back gasped, like she was in shock and surprised that Jennie would use such vulgar language in her poem. That was great! I love it when people are pushed to the edge and surprised at what they find. I remember myself chuckling as the girl gasped. At that point, I knew with no doubt in my mind, that I was in for a one in a million speaker, writer and woman.”