Super Bowl Sunday. It feels like the perfect day to share an excerpt from “Quantum Valley,” my evolving book where I explore an unpredictable yet self-determined path in the stories from my home, the Kanawha Valley.
Perfect because it puts Kanawha Valley native and NFL star Randy Moss, playing for the San Francisco 49ers today, front and center. It’s more than perfect, actually. It feels a little like quantum fate.
In “Quantum Valley,” I go on a journey, part scientific and part spiritual, where sub-atomic and human particles dance. I also explore my quantum obsession with Randy Moss. Its wyrd.
This writing adventure has given me poems, essays and new and exciting thoughts about life and spirituality. My talented editor friend Elizabeth Gaucher says Quantum Valley is my creative field. It is, and here “it” starts……
* I never published this on Super Bowl Sunday – 2013, I think. It is now Football Hall Of Fame 2018 and Randy Moss has just been inducted.
Quantum Valley: Particles and Poems
Creation isn’t as much of a puzzle as destruction is. It’s to be a future about crashing.
Every creative has a muse and mine, for a time, was Randy Moss, the NFL Pro Bowl starter. Moss – the greatest wide receiver of all time – just happens to be from my home state of West Virginia.
Randy Moss as my muse? It’s strange but true, just like quantum physics.
I am fascinated by the science of quantum physics, of known rules and probability. Quantum physics, Moss and poetry all have rules and ways that will never change, yet their random outcomes and interpretations keep the world a fascinating, challenging and romantic place.
In 2001, I bowed down to the “Google gods” with a simple search prayer request: Appalachian African American Writers. I found Frank X Walker. By 2006, I was honored with the title of Affrilachian Poet (AP) and became part of this ensemble of African American Appalachian poets to which I am deeply proud to belong. I became third generation along with Marta Miranda, Natasha Marin, Ellen Hagan and Stephanie Pruitt.
The official AP induction weekend celebrated the group’s tenth anniversary in Lexington, Kentucky. This included a proclamation by the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government declaring June 17 “Affrilachian Poets Day.” A plaque memorializing the elevator in which some the APs first “poetry moments” took place is dedicated at University of Kentucky.
The anniversary celebration included several readings and workshops with the founding Affrilachian Poets. I was excited to meet original founding member Nikky Finney, who has since gone on to win the National Book Award for her fourth book of poetry, “Head Off & Split.”
Nikky taught a workshop during the celebration. She asked each of us – new and senior poets alike – what we were interested in, what we secretly researched in the library. My answer came to me quickly, but I sat quietly, hesitating, wondering how my curiosities might be perceived as the “new” poet, the one without a published work or MFA.
Ms. Finney went from poet to poet, asking, “What do you want to learn?”
When she looked into me with her nurturing green eyes, I knew what author Walter Mosley meant when he said of Ms. Finney, “She was pulling me out of myself and bringing me home.”
Ms. Finney gave me a stare and a gentle prompt to answer: “Crystal?”
My answer came out rather loud and clumsy. “Randy Moss and quantum physics!” I said. Then, without a breath, in a ramble with my West Virginia lilt, I answered:
“Randy Moss is an NFL football player from West Virginia. I have never met him. Randy Moss and I are about the same age and from the same ‘Chemical Valley.’ We have a lot of chemical plants and environmental issues and no matter where I go, nobody knows any other Black folks my age except Randy Moss. Most people don’t even know there are black people in West Virginia. I call him Randy Moss ‘cause I don’t really know him, I just think his story is important to share and folks just don’t know the whole story about where we are from. I wanna write about the Valley, this unknown Affrilachia with Randy Moss and TD Jakes, Henry Louis Gates, Bill Withers and more. I wanna show how hard the people work, how Randy Moss’ story is ‘our’ story, how the young, black and talented struggle to stay in West Virginia. “
I took my seat. I’ve always known this is a world of mysteries, including me.
I took a breath. It felt like I might pass out as I noticed heads nodding and people leaning forward as I tried to explain quantum physics. They were looking at me as if I should continue, so I did:
“And quantum physics is curious to me for its attempt to explain how we create. How we are all connected… I know very little about quantum physics but read about the ‘observer effect’ and the ‘non-locality’ theory that suggests that the mere act of observing how a person, place or thing looks can change ‘something’. Quantum physics looks at the little things; the little things – the poems of life – are all that matter.”
The Affrilachian Poets energized me, validated my curiosities and suggested books to read and movies to watch like “What the Bleep Do We Know?” Ms. Finney in that moment changed my creative life. She boldly challenged me to find the connection between Randy Moss and quantum physics and to write about it. “Riff,” she said.
I come from a land where we string echoes together. I could hear mine calling.
Thank you for reading this excerpt.
Please check out my first book of poetry called “Valley Girl”.