Tuesday, April 27, 2010


About a week ago, I had the great pleasure to be a guest on a Chicago radio program called Wordslingers. Kurt Heintz, a Chicago poet and proprietor of the e-poets network, was the guest host that night, and so he invited me to join him, to read from my work and talk with him, for an hour on a Sunday night of live radio. Of course, I would not be the only guest. He told me that he would invite at least one other person, and that was that. A few days before the program, he emailed to say that a hip-hop poet named Precise would also be there. "Arrive about a half hour early," he wrote, so we would have time to settle in before air time. And so I did.
     When I walked into the studio--a really wonderful room on the downtown campus of Loyola University--Kurt was there with a man who looked like this (the one on the right). Except he had a knit hat on, pulled down on his forehead. That is Precise, but at that moment when I walked in, I didn't know who he was.

"Susan," Kurt said, "this is Precise." And vice versa. I looked at him, and he looked at me. And if his mind works anything like mine, he might have been wondering how the two of us had happened to come together in this room. This is me.
To cut to the chase, we had a wonderful time that night. Shelley Nation, the show's producer came in, and she and Kurt knew how to make us both feel comfortable and honored, and how to keep things moving in an interesting way. I admired Precise's work and especially his cool style of delivery, the fact that he came on live radio to preform and didn't even bring a piece of paper (whereas I was laden with my novel and notebook and a folder full of possibilities for my reading). We talked about this difference in performance style and many other things. Precise is from the south side of Chicago, and his family is from Haiti, and he is working toward hope in the midst of multiple losses. Kurt did not know ahead of time that one of my novel's central concerns is race and intersections between races, generations, religions, neighborhoods, and so on, so this was a surprising and highly compatible intersection between Precise and me.
     My hope is that Precise and I can together host a literary event. I don't know where or when or what it would be, but wouldn't it potentially be a great coming-together of diverse audiences? It's so unusual (at least in my life) to have opportunities to reach across the gulfs of race, age, style--to sit in the same room, just people. Reading, talking, laughing.
     Hmmm. We both look pretty serious in those photos--like we're waiting for something to happen? Maybe we're not so different after all. Thanks, Kurt, and thanks Shelley, for this great program and for bringing us together.


Etta Worthington said...

I hope you do arrange some sort of event.

Susan Messer said...

Any ideas?

Jim Poznak said...

So maybe you and Precise are not so different after all? Bravo, Susan, for your ability to realize and articulate your fine-tuned perceptions!

Susan Messer said...

Aw, shucks. Thanks.