This month I went back to Birmingham. Great place, great university. I was invited to do a reading of some of my poems alongside Jan Macmillan, Dick McBride, David Tipton and Jim Burns. I came in last, but as I pointed out to Dick Ellis, who organized the event and made the remark that I was THE woman in his introduction, my being last was merely customary of a long tradition of saving the best for last. So I set myself up pretty highly for the audience which consisted of 200 people (I’m still amazed that so many turned up for a poetry thing, esp. as there was an entrance fee). The expectation was thus accordingly high, if not even higher, but as the custom also is with THE woman, delivering the goods was not that difficult. After my reading, opinions were divided between fabulous, fabulous, and fabulous. There were variations. Some said phenomenal, some said inspiring, some liked the power and some the electricity. On my part, I was pleased with the British style of showing enthusiasm. I can only recommend performing in front of such a crowd.

Before, during, and after the event, there were drinks. Which makes for more interesting conversation. Dick Ellis, David, Jim, and my sister, whom I had invited along, went for dinner afterwards. More drinks. But, for the life of me, I have no idea why I have always managed to out-drink everyone and still come out of it with my reason intact. This is to say that I have en extremely high tolerance for drinking. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that the company was drunk, but judging by the rapidity in the shift in topics, and not to mention the topics themselves, I had some suspicion. For instance, when David disclosed that he has 9 cats, and I went, “my goodness, pets stress me, because, for the life of me, I have no idea why they always want to jump on me as soon as they see me,” Jim contributed this remark, in all earnest, and genuine expression: “but, my dear, we all want to jump on you, so why is that so surprising?” Well, it is for me. Then when I disclosed, upon request, after a game of guessing that I had passed the 40s, David went, “my goodness, you look absolutely fabulous.” Jim muttered: “astonishing,” referring to the looks, not the age; Dick corroborated with an “indeed,” and my sister supplied: “she always does, and always has.” As I was trying to catch everybody’s gazes simultaneously – let’s face it, how many times do you get such remarks from people who think you are both fab and feisty at the same time – I also turned to the second Dick, the organizer, that is, and answered the question he posed to me just before the astonishing moment occurred. The topic was my latest book on gazes and some Lacan. His question was this: “who can understand all that mirror thing?” As this was also formulated as a challenge, followed by: “I bet you can’t produce three coherent sentences on that,” I went lecturing. David, while staring at my breasts for 20 minutes – Dick’s challenge was no challenge, as I was able to produce a hell of a lot more sentences than 3, all extremely clear and coherent, as Jim remarked – went: “by Jove, you’re so, you’re so… “Smart?”, I said, as he was evidently at a loss. “Yeah,” he said, but he meant something else. “Good then,” I continued. And then I said: “David, tell me about your love life.” I’ll stop here, but not before saying that David was a most gracious story teller, that is, until Dick stopped him with these words: “David, don’t be a fool, can’t you see what she is doing, she’s psychoanalyzing the pants off you.’ That, I was, indeed. And who can blame me?

On the plane back to Denmark, I took Dick McBride’s book, The Astonished I, from my bag, and looked at its inscription. I both relished it and marveled at it. It says: “for Camelia, who sounds like an opera.”


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