The Real Author

The Real Author

By Grace Cavalieri

There’s a real author and an implied author behind every book. The real author of Other Voices, Other Lives is just me, in Annapolis, with my cat, sitting in p.j.s watching trash TV. The implied author is a feminist, creator of women’s stories, somewhat irreverent, sassy, sexy, restorer of characters in history, experimenter with language and form, and mythmaker. It’s so great to have a front (wo)man writing for me. But every piece is, of course, informed by the life lived by the real author

I worried to a friend: “But readers will think this book is too fragmented because some of the pieces don’t have entire through lines.” She answered, “Your life is the through line.” And so, I guess it is.

I know how Mary Wollstonecraft felt being the only woman silenced in a room filled with “important men.” I know how Anna Nicole Smith might have felt when she had a chance to sign a real contract to be seen as a real person, and it was taken from her. I can even imagine what it could be like to be a waitress in the Golden Glow Café under that greasy light. This is not to say any piece is autobiographical. Remember the real author may be swimming laps at the local pool, on the way to the grocery store, mother of four. It’s the implied author pulling her skirts up in public who’s written all the dangerous stuff.

I’m truly thrilled to have Other Voices, Other Lives published as second in the ASP Legacy Series. This was a bold venture for a publishing house. European presses combine various genre of literature within single volumes; but American presses have been slow on the uptake. That’s why I’m grateful for the rare opportunity to have plays (both full-length and excerpted,) poems, PLUS interviews from my public radio series “The Poet and the Poem.”

Now to the part where the implied author and the real author become the same. Since this publication came on the crest of my husband’s loss, in a marriage of almost 60 years, I welcomed the chance to memorialize that magnificent adventure in poems about and for Ken Flynn. ASP provided this showcase within the book to tell a love story in a suite of poems, forming an arch over a remarkable relationship. For that reason, I present this poem “where it all began,” with Ken, when I was just reading books, never dreaming of writing them.


When you were in the 9th grade and I was in the 7th, you were
a crossing guard keeping order at Junior High School number 3. No one
was disobedient when you wore that wide yellow strap across your chest—
no one bruised another, caused trouble, or so much as threw a stone—
no one cracked a joke about you, a man in uniform. How did
that yellow vest feed your soul to let you know someday you’d
fly a plane just to feel the power of a strap across your chest. What
liberation— to know how to be in charge— strong and capable—
flying through gunfire and lightning again and again to come back to me.
Although we were young, you were 15 and I was 13, since then, I’ve never
known the world without you. Now I must be 12.

the real authorGrace Cavalieri is the author of 23 books and chapbooks of poetry and 26 produced plays. A co-founder of WPFW-FM, a groundbreaking public radio station, Grace began her legendary interview show, “The Poet and the Poem,” at that station 40 years ago. Cavalieri’s many awards include The George Garrett Award for Service to Literature from the national Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP); a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington Independent Review of Books; two Allen Ginsburg awards for poetry; the Paterson Poetry Prize; the inaugural Folger Shakespeare Library’s Columbia Book Award for Service to Literature; and a Silver Medal from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Her papers are housed in the Gelman Library at George Washington University.


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