Nicelle Davis on Poetry Prom

The Poetry Prom is coming!

20footThis Saturday, a dress and I will have a conversation; we will imagine the girl who first wore this Goodwill ensemble—we will reminisce over the word ‘new.’ I will listen to the stitch work for love stories. I will curl and curl my hair in hopes of achieving Dolly Parton volume. I will sing her song “Bargain Store” while applying a third layer of mascara. There will be glitter. There will be music. There will be Laurel Ann Bogen and Douglas Kearney, bringing royalty back to poetry. I will hope, hope, hope, you will ask me to dance!

This Saturday, I will squeeze my hips into my second-hand dress. It is a long emerald green number, velvet, with artificial jewels dripping from the collar, and a slit that runs the entire length of my legs. I found this dress on a Goodwill rack; its ghost shape hung between a Le Femme and Chiffon Strapless. I picked my dress for its earnest quality; Prom is something this dress takes very seriously. While the other two dresses seemed content on their hangers, gossiping about proms past, my little dress longed to be seen.

The texture of longing—the shape of a poem, my dress continues to look for the starlight of dance halls. It is an absurd little piece of art: I love when the bizarre becomes ordinary. Poetry and Proms work to combine the bizarre and the ordinary—they create an approachable beauty. When I really think about it, prom and poetry are almost interchangeable words. Just look at their etymology:

“Poetry,” as in “verse,” means “to turn, bend.” This sounds like a description of dancing, not writing.

The word “prom” is the shortened form of “promenade,” as in “to drive (animals) onward.” “Driving animals onward,” is how it feels to write a poem.

I suspect these two words exchanged definitions sometime in the 16th centenary. I am glad to see these symbiotic twins reunited this Saturday. Unification is the goal of the Red Hen Press Kickstarter; it’s a chance for our community to come together, to bend and turn, to drive the animals onward, to move towards something beautiful.

For this to happen, we need you to be there. Dress as you will—strikingly or modestly, listen to poetry, read a book, eat cake or strawberries, and dare to hope that the poem of your dreams will ask you to dance.

—Post by Nicelle Davis, whose second collection we’ll publish September 2013

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