Suzan-Lori Parks

Last night I saw Pulizter Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks speak at the Literary Arts Lecture Series.  In the sea of white intellectuals, mostly 40’s and 50’s, I found no more than five or six people of color.  Why???  SLP writes about the impoverished black experience using slang, profanity, hip-hop, song and often violence.  It is polar opposite the pristine theatres her plays live in.  I’m certain she’s the only Literary Arts speaker to reference The Beverly Hillbillies television show.  “Up from the ground came a bubblin’ crude,” she laughed, “think about that.”  She was most definitely the only Literary Arts speaker who asked the audience to pay some respect to Anna Nicole Smith for simply being human.  “Give her a wave as she leaves the building… and hopefully one day when you leave the building we’ll all wave to you too.”  The life-changing books of her youth were not works typically sited by successful writers: props to Harriet the Spy and Hotel for Dogs.  Oh, and the pictures, but not the words (she didn’t read them) in an annotated version of Don Quixote.  She was alive… limbs flailing, braids swinging, voice singing, cussing, sharing, grounded yet flying high.  She didn’t place much value on success.  “Before Pulizter Prize: Chop wood, carry water.  After Pulizter Prize: Chop wood, carry water.”  She spoke not of metaphor, parallels or theory.  Her passion is listening-in.   She allows creative spirits (voices that always come from “Back-Left”) to come in and sit down.  She treats them as honored guests; it would be disrespectful to question them, to ask that they further explain themselves.  She simply receives the message and runs with it.  Seventeen years ago when her first play was performed (in a bar/old gas station) they spelled her name wrong on the fliers.  Where the S should have been there was a Z.  She rolled with it.  Her latest work, 365 Days/365 Plays, is  being produced simultaneously in seven (big-moneyed) theatres around the country.  It will hit Portland in summer of 2008.  Suzan-Lori Parks: The Shit.    



3 responses to “Suzan-Lori Parks

  1. Remember you live in Portland. A city that still seems racially divided in many ways.
    I often wonder why I don’t see more people of color at certain events. The NPR, tea drinking, clog wearing crowd is everywhere. Where are the rest of the people?

  2. At least you got to watch her speak! I saw her once in NYC and she was so down to earth. It was refreshing meeting such an intelligent human being who is so “real” and connected to the pulse of everyday life. Too many times great authors and artists who have experienced such success lose what made us connect with their work in the first place. She is inspiring and so fucking talented. I only wish more people of color where familiar with her work. The sad truth is, I don’t think her work is introduced to people. She is huge in the literary and academia world more than in the urban world that needs her voice.

  3. hello bananafish, just dropped by to check out the latest entry in your blog… enjoyed what I read so far. peace.

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