Catching up on my stack of Harper’s magazine, I came across a remembrance of the poet Etheridge Knight, and it stirred a long buried memory.
Etheridge? I paused, before remembering he was a black inmate of the Indiana State Penientiary when he began writing seriously. Damn good stuff, as I discovered.
My introduction came in the mid ’70s when Roger Pfiingston asked if I wanted to go with him up to Indianapolis, aka Naptown, to a reading and open mic. I was free that night. The trip from Bloomington was a little over an hour, and he was driving.
The event was at a bar in the inner city, not a familiar terrain, and Etheridge was hosting. I should go back to my journals for details, but I recall it as a warm and comforting evening. I think Jared Carter was the featured reader. Another damned good Indiana poet.
I was a bit nervous about one of the pieces I’d brought with me, one that quoted a friend’s father about a lover in the ’30s, but I read it anyway.
The line in question triggered delighted, loud laughter from Etheridge, especially. I was sooooh relieved!
Looking back, I see it as one more confirmation – and welcome – as my identity as a poet.
What a wonderful community!