Here’s the set–up for a poem: A writer is at McCarran International Airport. She’s on her way to a writer’s conference. While waiting for her plane to board – she encounters Elvis.
The poem, “Off-Duty Elvis” is by Jennifer Battisti and appears in the current issue of Helen magazine.
Jennifer visits KNPR to talk with us about her poem, and to read it.
Desert Companion's Wednesday Poem: Off Duty Elvis
A writer’s material can come anytime, anywhere – even a visit to the airport. Why Elvis?
Growing up here, as a resident, that’s part of it. I do think if you live here long enough you’ll surely encounter your own off-duty Elvis. Elvis goes to the dry cleaners, to the DMV, picking up his prescription – those types of things. At first I was just struck with the irony of it. The king is eating at Burger King. And then it became a little bit deeper, and I was able to relate it to my own experience - this idea of: When do we claim we’re a writer? When do we receive permission or give ourselves permission for that? Elvis is like the perfect fearless ultimate example of owning his pompadour. He’s Elvis because he loves it.
This poem is about being a writer.
Sure. It was the first writer’s conference I’d ever gone to. I hadn’t been to Portland ever and they have a very large writing scene there. So, I was feeling apprehensive. And right in the middle of my apprehension I spotted him, and just allowed myself to soften to the image and see what it could teach me. And it stuck with me, for sure.
In your poem, you write: “Swallowed up into the belly of the bird, I suctioned pen to paper. Going where I need to go.” Where do you need to go?
I need to get it down into my marrow - the absolute nucleus – that I’m not going to give up. I think as writers, or anyone who is in the arts, you have to get it down there where judgment can’t get to. I was making a dedication in that moment.
You have a pedigree in Las Vegas culture. Your father, sadly no long with us, was Jim Albrecht. He was tournament director of the World Series of Poker for many years. So I have to ask: At home when you were growing up, did you play Monopoly, Parcheesi, or Poker?
[Laughs] We definitely played poker. We absolutely love the game. It was part of growing up.
Are you good at it?
I think I’m pretty good. My dad was really protective over his girls. So, he didn’t allow us anywhere near the hotel where he worked, or any of that. It was all at home. But, we grew up with all the poker lingo. He would infuse it into his parenting. It was a lot of fun.
Jennifer Battisti, Las Vegas-based poet
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