>Some Identity Problems

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That’s the name of Corey Mesler’s first full-length chap book. The one he read from last night at his book signing at Burke’s Books. Before you read my post, you can read a review of Some Identity Problems here. I especially like the quote at the end of that one, where they ask Corey why he writes.

But first, let me set the scene. The reading and book signing last night coincided with two other significant commemorations: It was the one year (plus one day) celebration of Burke’s Books’ move to its new location at 936 Cooper Street. If you don’t live in Memphis, this is part of an artsy neighborhood called Cooper-Young, which is alive and brimming with coffee shops, restaurants, art galleries, music stores, architects’ offices, massage parlors, dance studios and other creative businesses. And, it was the first ever Cooper-Young Thursday Night Out . Here are a few shots of the street scene in front of Burke’s Books. As I approached, I could hear music from a group jamming in front of the Memphis Drum Shop, and the aromas wafting from nearby Tsunami, Dish, and Blue Fish, my favorites among the food offerings in the neighborhood. As I drove away I saw young couples with babies in strollers coming up the street to join the festivities, and I smiled.

Down the street and around the corner on Central, Artists on Central was celebrating “Italia Va Bene” during the month of March. My friend Nancy took me there on Wednesday, to see her husband Lloyd Mardis’ display of acrylic paintings from their trip to Venice last year. They’ve extended his showing during the month of April.

But back to Burke’s Books. First a digression, one of those “it’s a small world” stories. At the two Creative Nonfiction workshops I’ve attended in Oxford, one last fall and another this February, one of the hosts has been Neil White. Neil has just sent his first book manuscript to the publisher, and he’s been kind enough to give me some help with the book proposal I’m putting together. As it turns out, Cheryl Mesler, (right) Corey’s wife and co-owner of Burke’s Books, is Neil’s sister-in-law. So it was a nice surprise to see Neil and his wife, Debbie, there at the book reading last night.

Speaking of the book reading, Corey read several selections from Some Identity Problems. The room was packed with people sitting and standing along the sides and in the back. He read with a comfortableness that belied his fear of crowds.

I sat with his book in my lap, with my eyes on his. It’s the best way to listen to a poet read their own words. That’s what I tell visitors to my church… that’s it’s best not to try to follow along in the Divine Liturgy Book, but just to watch the altar area and listen for the voices of the priests and deacons and chanters and angels.

And even though I loved hearing Corey read his poetry, I’m going to end with one of his poems that he didn’t read last night. But it’s one of my favorites. People who know me well will understand why I like it so much. It’s short. Just try to picture Corey reading it:

Josephine Tey

Josephine Tey sits down at her desk.
Today she’s going to try to reinvent
a famous life. “Now there’s a mystery,”
she thinks, “the arc of reality.”
She puts her fingers on the keys and
something stops her. She turns
around to see her shadow go into the
kitchen. She hears the refrigerator
door open. “I just want to get this started,”
she thinks. “Just let me into this book.”

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