Saturday, February 18, 2012

What's Playing at Shul?

My synagogue is such a warm, welcoming community. I have belonged for many years now, and know not all, but many members by name. Once a month we have a musical service, synaplex, with a full evening of events for everyone--dinner, music, entertainment for kids, a guest speaker, and goodies.
The music, performed by extremely gifted people who happen to belong to our synagogue or are hired on a regular basis, is always wonderful too. I leave that service smiling, even though sometimes I do not arrive in a particularly good frame of mind.
Often, the speakers are of extremely high quality and interest. Last night, Valerie Plame, the former CIA agent outed by Bush and his cronies, spoke about her book detailing this experience. She was extremely articulate and appealing,in some ways glamorous, but not in a Bond way. Though the CIA is hardly my favorite organization, speaking generally, I found her likeable and accessible. She has made me question my presuppositions about the organization and intelligence operators because she clearly intended to use her position as a way to protect the public and the U.S. at large. She had investigated the trafficking of nuclear materials, trying to keep these out of the hands of people likely to use them in illicit ways. Since leaving the organization, she has become involved in an effort to eliminate nuclear weapons worldwide.
I didn't get a chance to speak with her after the presentation. The place was mobbed, and as always, it was quite late and Liz and I were tired and needed to go home. But I left feeling I had learned something and had a wonderful evening!
I took a copy of Balance with me to show friends at synagogue, many of whom had already ordered the book. Many inspected it with interest, but it became plain that poetry is an alien beast for most people, who seemed to think that because it sat in the middle of the page and was broken into lines rather than being a block of prose, it must be obscure and too "deep" to understand. Only a few people there actually read and identified real, concrete images they could envision in their own imaginations. An uphill battle.


marly youmans said...

You encountered a subject that you weren't al that interested in and felt a resistance to, and yet you were stimulated and learned a good deal.

That has a lesson for you in regard to the poetry, doesn't it? I rather think so.

Robbi N. said...

Do you mean that poetry will never be popular? I knew that; I guess I didn't think it was quite so entrenched an attitude because people like Pinsky had done that American poetry project and it seemed to resonate so much, but if you combine two topics regarded as obscure, I guess you don't get very accessible.

Robbi N. said...

But it isn't that I wasn't interested in Plame... not at all. That was a major betrayal, and in some ways, in much more important and significant ones of course, she and her husband faced the same sort of challenge that I have. She spoke truth to power that they didn't want to hear, and suffered the consequences.

marly youmans said...

No, I didn't mean that at all!

I simply meant that people who meet up with a subject they have some resistance to can be engaged and interested in a positive way. She made you "question presuppositions" and even though the "CIA is hardly" a "favorite," you were clearly taken with her and what she had to say.

How is that different from encountering people, most of whom have no connection with poetry, and winning them over a bit?

Of course, you may have some other reason for being interested in Plame, but that hardly changes the basic idea that people can be won over.

Robbi N. said...

Yes that's true. If I can get them to come to a reading because they know me or are interested in yoga, they may decide poetry is not bad after all. This is one reason I wrote those poems.