'Ice Skating in New Orleans' by Paris Tate is Poem of the Week
This weeks POTW choice is ‘Ice Skating in New Orleans’ by Paris Tate, a wonderful, chilly slice of nostalgia. Placing us alongside her on a makeshift ice-rink in the early 90s, Paris shows a remarkable grasp of subtlety and language to tell a tale and make our cheeks redden with the cold. A relatively new writer to Write Out Loud, ‘Ice Skating in New Orleans’ marks Paris out as a talented writer and a fine storyteller. Below we find out more about Paris through our Q&A:
What got you into writing poetry?
I started writing short stories at first. Two things happened that helped me to transition into poetry. For one, I took a poetry class in high school, and I slowly but surely started to understand and appreciate poetry. I found that I was able to tell many stories by using poetry—in a way that I couldn’t do by writing it as a short story. However, I didn’t really start getting into poetry until after my father passed away in 2013. That was when poetry—reading and writing it—became a form of therapy and it helped me to process my emotions and thoughts throughout the years. In fact, my first poem to be published was about my father.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing short stories when I was about 12 years old. I was always reading and thinking of story plots to pass the time, so one day I just started to write down my ideas and I enjoyed it. As for poetry, I was a bit of a late bloomer…I took a break from creative writing during my college years, but once I got back into writing in my early twenties, I had so much to say after my father died and that was when I started write poetry almost exclusively.
Do you go to any open-mic nights?
Yes, I attend a few open-mic nights every month around New Orleans. The main open-mic reading I go to is at the Maple Leaf Bar’s weekly open-mic in Uptown New Orleans. I’ve been going there for several years, and it’s a welcoming and open community of writers, which is great for someone like me, a person that was initially very shy about showing my work and reading in front of others.
What’s your favourite poet/poem?
Oh that’s a tough one. I’m still searching for my favorite poet! I’m a librarian so my new favorite poet changes every month or so. My first favorite poets were Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes…I read a lot of their stuff as a kid. At the moment, my favorite poet is Amanda Lovelace. And my favorite poem is “A Drunkard” by Elizabeth Bishop.
You're cast away on a desert island. What's your luxury?
A library of books--mostly memoirs—to keep me entertained. And a laptop. For writing and Netflix.
Ice Skating in New Orleans
by Paris Tate
My older sister, several other girls
met on the concrete square in our backyard
to test the sheet of ice that wouldn't melt
in rare moments of a "real" winter
in a New Orleans suburb. In 1994,
they were only in junior high
but seemed so grown up when I was five
and watched how easy it was for them to teach
me how to slide over the slipperiness
in tennis shoes, pretending to be the figure
skaters we watched spin like a quarter
on the edge. In shorter legs, I was much more
careful, but it went beyond the leftover ice.
They were giggly, but even as a child
I was tight-lipped and numb after Thanksgiving,
silently asking why everything moved in
slow motion--like the moment
I didn’t catch my balance in time,
slamming my palms into the ice
when it was time to break my fall.
Then overbearing crisis--"Are you okay?" Yes,
just tired while too busy listening to the hush
between our willow's naked branches,
still too young to know why. I just wanted to
dust myself off, go back inside, listen to quiet until
I fell asleep in my coat, where it was warmer, safer