Wednesday, February 27, 2008

AWP Moments*

Dinner the first evening with the Utah crowd (delectably tender short ribs at Thalia).

Lunch with Elena Byrne at the Stage Deli for a 21 dollar sandwich.

With Mark Strand on the street talking about wine. (He corrected my pronunciation of Sassacaia, a wonderful wine however you say it.)

Drinking the stuff with Kurt Brown and Wyn Cooper and Shawna Parker and Katie Coles and Steven Huff. What was that Grenache again, Katie? Who was that guy taking notes? Following it up with magnificent gyros from the street cart.

One of my favorite poets, Kim Addonizio, stops me and calls me by name. Too, too briefly.

In the lobby catching up with Terry Hummer.

Chinese food with John Guzlowski and running into Thom Ward, in search of his missing Fedora, on the way out.

"Eye Spy" with Paula while Margot Schilpp entertained her and Jeff Mock's lovely baby Leah.

Lunch with David Oliveira and Florence Weinberger at that little Thai place, then later seeing proofs of David's new book with his publisher, Peter Money.

The panel "Being Crazy Doesn't Make You Interesting" (in order of appearance) with colleague and organizer Jeffrey Vasseur, me, Marita Golden, Bob Shacochis, Amy Bloom, and David Kranes.

With Robert Pinsky after his reading remembering together Thom Gunn.

Talking to Rebecca Fussell while she waited for Anna Gatewood to show up.

With Wyn, Shawna, Tom Hazuka, and Ralph Wilson in the Old Castle where I ran into the delightful Joy Castro for the forth time while we wondered if Martin Amis would find us (he didn't).

Talking about Larry Levis with Alex Long and his former students in the conference hotel bar.

Seeing Yerra Sugarman again in her NYC element.

Answering the question, "Where's Amy?"

The other Utah dinner at Sardi's: steak tartar with fries.

Not being confused with Scott Cairns for a change (he's grown long, lovely locks) and meeting his long, lovely wife, Marcia.

With fellow Berkeley alum Sharon Dolin, talking about tough times, and finding out the good news that Bob Hicok had picked her book for Pitt.

Central Park and MOMA with Wyn and Shawna.

*The conference as a whole huge. There were many people I wanted to see that I didn't see (Jackie Osherow, Jill Rosser, to name two that I knew were there) or didn't see enough of (Rodney Jones, Kim Addonizio, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Bob Wrigley, Kim Barnes, Mary Flynn, Greg Donovan, Mark Jarman). These are a few of the moments outside of slogging through crowds to panels or book tables that stood out.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Road Trip, Valdosta to New Haven (New York City)

Was a distant voice
Made me make a choice
That I had to get the fuck out of this town
I got a lot of things to do
A lot of places to go
I've got a lot of good things coming my way
And I'm afraid to say that you're not one of them.

-- "Box Elder," Pavement

I had to head north for a conference, for some peace on a long drive, distance from and distance to heartbreak and a night at the home of the best poet writing today in America along the way. Wine (thanks Uncle Gene) and a fine dinner with Bob and Eve and much laughter, a few honest tears. Tears, because, honestly, no matter how much you do, it's not enough if you care, whether Blacksburg or Fresno or Valdosta, anyplace where people can't stop what's in their heads.

The road is a sweet hum otherwise, a veer and a slope, movement and purpose even in a dubious rented Aveo, but it had a CD player and I drove and listened and drove and made good time through all the states 75, 85, 77, 81, 78, 287, and 95 touch. I went the back way up and down, felt the mountains behind me, drank bad coffee and gripped the cold steel of the pump at gas stations, thanked all the fine people who sold me water and m&ms and who let me pee in the employee restrooms. I made it to New Haven in good time on day two, had Pizza from famous Pepe's with my beautiful daughter and James, her beau, and then headed into the city for AWP, which will be another entry. This is about the road and the way the mountains fur with trees in winter, about every white line saying I miss you all the way, north and south, Tim's voice singing it whisper soft, SM explaining why the hard way through Georgia rain and construction zones and Shenandoah Valley and where New Jersey is pretty, trochaic tire thump miss yous, slow miss yous in the wind and the miss miss of wipers whipping only the rain off the glass, and it's ok, this hard work, this forty hours of missing you. Coming home, south, it was all I could do to keep myself from hitting 87 North, north and north to where you are, but I couldn't do that because I wanted to too much. Too much.