AWP Day 2
Okay, so I also saw Tenaya Darlington on Friday. Tenaya graduated from Beloit College a few years before I did and was the rockstar of her generation (picking up quickly after the departure of Graham Foust (a person I did not see at AWP, though I have been passively stalking him for many years now.)) Tenaya teaches writing up at St. Joseph's in Philly now. All of the male members of my mother's side of the family went to St. Joe's; I grew up with sports banners for St. Joe's in my bedroom; I may have even had a set of sheets. I didn't go there, but now Tenaya teaches there. Life can be strange.
I also remembered someone that I saw on Friday yesterday (I remembered yesterday that I'd seen somebody friday) but now I can't remember anymore. Hmmm. I did see K. Silem Mohammad briefly, but his story is really on saturday.
I saw Jon Thompson and found out that he broke his back! It is so hard for me to understand how a person can break their back and still be walking around. Jon didn't even have to spend months in a full body plaster cast drinking through bendy straws. He walked around. He taught. He wore an exoskeleton. Wow.
I woke up Saturday morning around 7pm. I hadn't picked out what I was going to read yet, but at least I found that I was able to look at the pages in my book for a few moments at a time -- no more literary gag reflex.
I showered, got dressed (took me a little while, finally went with gray/blueish pinstripes and a green polo-esque shirt (Tanya said I looked good in short sleeves -- I fall for that stuff everytime.)
About 8, I went down to the restaurant for breakfast and to figure out what I was going to read. Two eggs over easy, sausage, hash browns, toast, and I drank every penny of my refillable $4.50 orange juice. My poor waitress finally left the juice pitcher on my table. (This was a mistake because I spent the whole panel fighting the need to race out to the bathroom.)
I found some poems, read them softly under my breath (I wasn't the only one talking to themself), and timed it out. Okay. Ready.
The panel was a reading by Carolina Wren authors to celebrate CW's 30th anniversary. It was also the launch of mine and several others' books.
I was to read and so was Evie Shockley (!), William Pitt Root, Linda Penisi, Andrea Selch, and Preston Allen. It was 9 o'clock in the morning on Saturday, the last day of AWP. Most of the 7000 people there were on the last day of a 3 day bender and facing the task of finding where they'd left all their underwear.
Which is to say we had a good, dedicated, and medium-sized crowd. As I was walking back in after trying to empty my bladder (unsuccessfully) before the panel began, I saw my old friend Jeffrey Morgan hunched over under a red baseball cap. God bless, Jeff Morgan. I was very happy to see him and rather impressed that he made it. He was looking a little green around the gills, but he perservered. Jeff is an old friend from PSU MFA school, and I hadn't seen him in a while. He's also a really good poet with a really good manuscript in the works. He and I both show the signs of the influence of our teacher at PSU C. S. Giscombe. It's a very very good influence. Which is all to say that somebody should publish Jeff's book.
I talked to Jeff briefly then sat up at the table on the dais. The readings were brief and good. I enjoyed everyone's reading -- Penisi read this great poem that obsessed about blood, Root read some terrific little poems about mines, Selch read excellent pieces about various relationships, Allen read a short story about a saxophone player and his missing baby, Shockley read a poem about two women comparing husbands -- it was all really good stuff. Then I got up there and read laregly non-narrative, non-imagey, non-poetic poems. I read well (and for the first time from a book!) and got some good cheers and feedback.
The whole time I was dying to go to the bathroom.
I had fun though -- I really enjoy reading, totally love it; I enjoy getting onstage and trying to figure out how to really connect and commune with the audience. Part of that is an imposition of will in a way, like "I am here and I am supposed to be here and I have something to say" just moving and acting and thinking as if all that is true, with intentionality. The other way, for me, is to read a piece then play the rest in response (as much as I can) to how the audience is responding. So I enjoy that performative aspect; the writing's over at that point -- a good reading is all theatre.
So the panel went well and some people said some nice things afterwards. I met Andrew Joron (and later kicked myself for not buying his new (?) collection of essays.) And talked to Lee Ann Brown. And hooked up with Jeff, Joel and Matt (other PSU'ers).
Then I went to the bathroom.