On Saturday May 13 the finalists in the DC Poet Project read their work in a shared poetry reading at the Anacostia Public Library. At the conclusion, the audience voted to select a winner: Susan Meehan.
Interviewer: Congratulations, Susan, on your win! How long have you been writing poetry?
SM: I’ve been writing poetry ever since my mother read poetry to me. Age 6, I think.
Interviewer: I know you’ve lived in DC for a long time, but are you a DC native? What first brought you to DC?
I am not a native Washingtonian, but I’ve lived here ever since July 6, 1964. I know the date well because of two things – first, I have a splendid photo of the moon that night, and two – the man sitting next to me in the first day of training as a Management Intern at the State Department/AID, and whom I had never met before, turn out to be the man I married some 50 years ago. Bob was talking rather loudly and ever so constantly, that our trainer came over to me and whispered in my ear that I was being given a special – and immediate assignment – that of keeping him from being the sole speaker. I must confess that I have failed that assignment – he’s still talking! But I did SOLVE the problem by marrying him.
The reason I came to DC was idealistic; Kennedy had been shot not long before, and I wanted to do my part in ensuring that his ideals would be carried out by the young people he had attracted – like me and Bob. Both of us had had to take a lengthy 2-day test in written and oral Spanish and French, and both passed. I wanted to save the world – especially women and children in the third world. I had lived in both Spain and Mexico, and cared greatly that democracy needed to be taught. I would do it!
Interviewer: I heard you worked for DC’s “Mayor for Life” Marion Barry for like 20 years. How was that? Any poetic experiences with him?
SM: Marion was a fine person to work for; I learned a great deal. Were it not for his dependence on the ladies, he might still be there – and we’d be better off if that were true. While I can recall no poetic experience, I did have one incident with Marion that still makes me laugh. We received word that the Black Panthers were in town and acting not at all well. Nixon set up the PDP to keep trouble away his DC residence, but some were still angry. Marion and I were chosen to go over to the Black Panther office to find out what was going on – and fix it. As we walked over to the building they had taken over, I gave him a brief précis of the role of the Black Irish sailors in the planned Spanish invasion of Great Britain. By the time we arrived at the building which the Black Panthers had taken over, he knew they were angry and ready to fight. The building had had all of its windows bricked up – except for small slits good for weaponry and little else. He informed the Panthers that I was a member of the Black Irish, and as such they had better take care of me, as well. I didn’t know whether to gulp at his totally untrue tale, or to look exceptionally fierce. I chose the latter, and we were invited in without further ado. It didn’t take too much to work out an acceptable plan…
Interviewer: Have you given any thought to what you might title your book, how you might focus it? We’re looking forward to working with you on it, and congratulations again on your win.
SM: I am thinking about, THE COLOR OF DISTANCE UNKNOWN, or maybe, THE COLOR OF MAGIC…