liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

speaker tonight: Andre Codrescu

Andre is a regular comentator on NPR, and his voice with the Romanian lilt is so familiar that we're on a first name basis, though we've never met. He is a poet, teaches creative writing in Louisiana, and lives in New Orleans. He spoke at Prochnow Auditorium on the NAU campus, and the venue was about 3/4 full. Inga the Gringa drew a bigger crowd. But Andre is funny, witty, and really intelligent. He brings the outsider's view to our culture, the appreciative perspective of a refugee from World War II. He brings the wild joy at our freedoms that artists feel.

I missed the beginning of the lecture because I was taking a Physics exam. When I walked in he was involved in a comparison of poets to geographers. He had a lot of funny things to say about how poets don't trust maps. Next he launched into his brand new taxonomy of immigrants. The first was the cyber-immigrant. He described how it takes only 4 years to become American over the internet. Then he described the potential immigrant, and so on, working through about 7 categories of which he belonged in at least two. He said he had thought of more categories but he wasn't ready to share them all with us. I'm sure this idea will be developed into a full essay at some point.

He read a poem about the girlfriends of married men. He gloated afterward that the great thing about poems is that you don't even have to finish your sentences. There is a great deal that is left to the imagination of the listener. In this case, that was helping him keep his cover, I think.

There were constant asides about New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, and our government. He spoke of Katrina as a second major upheavel in his experience that had contributed directly to his art, the first being World War II. He said that the rhetoric of our current government is to constantly proclaim success at everything. He is right. He said that there are tons of Dept of Homeland Security people and other special forces type dudes wandering around New Orleans "looking ready". He didn't know their actual purpose for being there. He spoke of Marti Gras and how it was an occasion for the people for whom N.O. is home to gather together again. He spoke of the unique culture of the place, with a familial sort of fondness. He said that when he moved there it was the last "urban Bohemia" in the US. Now the cheap rents are gone.

He read a section of his book that predicted the impact of the dissipation of N.O.'s artists into the rest of the nation. There was a man from N.O. in the audience who provoked the reading by saying that he wasn't sure he was going back, and that he thought the spreading of the people was causing the entire nation to become more like N.O. The first item on Andre's list of predictions was "the food will get better". That got applause. The rest were assorted improvements due largely to a culture of independence, outspokenness, and a distrust of the government. He predicted a total rout of the corrupt politicians who are wasting our money in D.C. That got cheers.

After the show Kay said that Andre's ego was a bit much. She looked bored and deadpan. She said that he was obviously intelligent and so his egoism could be tolerated because of that. I had not found him obnoxiously egotistic as she had. His moments of gloating were full of humor. I found his confidence and forwardness charming.

My feeling after hearing this man speak is that we have it good. We can still speak out. We can still go where we please. We still have art and music, and clean water and air. There is much good here. He does not want to return to Romania. There is plenty not to trust about our government, but all is not yet lost. Andre gave me hope and a jolt of humor. It's going to be OK. If things get really bad, I can write about it.

Thanks for that, Andre. Blessed BE!
Tags: disaster, food, government, immigration, louisiana, npr, writing

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