Posting an excerpt here of the story I’ll be reading this Friday at the Columbus Arts Festival. This is the first year prose writers will be included with the poets on the Ohio Magazine Word Is Art Stage. Though the vast majority of my writing and publishing history is in fiction, folks in Columbus know me mostly for poetry. It’ll be fun to show my fiction side here in town!
Click here for the audio link!
The story was originally published in 2003, in Volume 7 of Lake Effect: A Journal of the Literary Arts. I thought it would be a good one to submit to this year’s ArtsFest as I needed to select something fun, that would read well to an audience, and that would connect in some personal way to festival itself. Last year, I saw a really terrific Elvis act at ArtsFest–I mean really terrific, with a full bad-ass band behind him. The crowd loved it–it was not a corny impersonator act, it was a really hot tribute band that played well enough to remind everyone what a great performer Elvis really was.
There was a time I was writing about Elvis a lot. I was not a particular fan–on the cusp of being too young, I think, as he died when I was just 14. What fascinated me was Elvis as Cultural Phenomenon: what was it that kept him in the public psyche so long, and so powerfully? I lived in the Deep South for sixteen years (you’ll note my accent comes back when reading this story–can’t help it!), including seven in Mississippi, first and briefly in Jackson and then in Bentonia, home of the Bentonia Blues and part of Yazoo County, the mouth of the Mississippi Delta. I visited Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo on three separate occasions and have been to Graceland at least twice. The story of Elvis Presley is not just an American phenomenon–it has the added aura of being a particularly Southern one.
There’s plenty that can and has been said on that, plenty written, and I wrote about it myself off and on for years, both in poetry and prose. For now I’ll just leave it with this, “Salvation,” a story about a Iris and her new man Orin who “took her to Tupelo for their honeymoon, so he could show her where Vernon and Gladys had borne their king.”
Enjoy the clip. To find out how the story turns out, come see me at the festival!