|Excerpt from "What Rose Light as Breath," For Love of Common Words by Steve Scafidi|
I met Steve Scafidi in my senior year of college. At the time, a friend and I were co-editors of our college literary magazine. We had arranged for four semi-local poets to come to campus for poetry readings and one-on-one workshops with creative writing students.
Luckily, of the four poets we invited, I was paired with Mr. Scafidi for my one-on-one. We sat at a cafe table, and he pulled out a copy of a poem I had written, which he had read before our meeting and had written all over in scribbly black pen.
When he is not a poet, Mr. Scafidi is a cabinetmaker. He owns a farm in West Virginia, which he shares with his wife Kathleen. When he sat down with me that day to talk about my poem, he apologized for the state of his hands. They were rough, and his nails were covered in brown, stained lacquer. He said the stuff was nearly impossible to scrub away. And before he said anything about what he had written about my poem, he asked me to read it aloud for him.
When people tell me that they "don't understand" poetry, I want to take them by the hands and lead them to a place where they can hear someone like Mr. Scafidi reading his own work aloud. Poetry was meant to be heard. Real, honest poetry is filled with breath.
We had a long talk that day, about language, images, and the things people feel between lines of poetry. I promised him that I would send him a copy of the finished poem, but I never rewrote it. The copy covered in his notes stays folded in eighths and tucked in my copy of For Love of Common Words.
I rarely write anything anymore, let alone poetry, but a secret part of me still dreams of someday being a poet and a cabinet maker, like Mr. Scafidi. To spend my time among wood and words, breathing in sawdust and listening--waiting--for the poems to speak.