Almost Random Notes, Part 8
a. "The Writers' World," a presentation on a new series of anthologies in which writers of different nations talk about the writing process. The anthologies are from Trinity University Press and each is edited by a prominent writer from that nation or by a translator who has worked with writers from that nation. The first three volumes are on the work of Irish writers, Polish writers, and Mexican writers, and the panelists included anthology editors Eavan Boland, Adam Zagajewski and translator Margaret Sayers Peden. The series is edited by Ed Hirsch, under the general editorial supervision of poet Barbara Ras.
b. "Narrative Poetry: Past, Present, Future," a panel featuring B.H. Fairchild, Kate Daniels, and David Mason, moderated by David Rothman. I love everything by Fairchild and while I didn't know Mason's work, I was very impressed with his presentation.
c. "In the Beginning There was the Middle: A Panel on How Poems Begin," featuring Sharon Dolin, Beth Gylys, David Kirby, Phillis Levin, Lisa Russ Sparr, and Connie Voisine. I thought Voisine's essay was outstanding and have a sense that Beth Gylys also had a lot of worthwhile things to say, if only the panel hadn't run out of time. David Kirby's reading of his hilarious (and poignant) poem "Motherfucker" was marred by a ringing cell phone. I sat there thinking, "Who is the idiot who left his cell phone on?" only to discover that it was me! Kirby (a friend) handled it by looking at me incredulously and intoning, "Motherfucker!"
Note to self: Toss cell phone off Techwood Drive Bridge.
d. I also enjoyed the Bread Loaf reading and the Bread Loaf craft lecture panel and the Purdue University MFA faculty-alumni reading. I thought the University of Arkansas Press "first book" reading was great, though I never did get to talk to Enid Shomer.
2. I stayed in the Castleberry Inn, a small hotel in the Castleberry Hill district, south of the Georgia Dome and Philips Arena. The only time the distance got to be a problem was during the Thursday morning downpour, when I was drenched walking to the Hilton. I finally had to buy a new shirt and sweater to avoid hypothermia--my thanks to Katie and the good people at Brooks Brothers (a place I haven't shopped in since I quit being a "Dress-for-Success" lawyer) for outfitting me so well and so curteously. The only other mild disaster was losing my prescription sunglasses on Friday night.
3. I introduced myself to Paul Guest, said hello to C. Dale Young, had lunch with poet Gail Peck, and spoke with Elizabeth Hadaway and her husband. I spent an hour or-so with John Dufresne, Lola Haskins, and C.D. Mitchell, another reformed lawyer. It was good to see Diane Wakoski, Sebastian Matthews, the amazing Todd Davis, Patrick Philips, Kenny Hart, Phil Sterling and Sue William Silverman, to see Derick Burleson and Robert Wrigley again, and to meet Tree Swenson of the Academy of American Poets. Did you know that she's married to Liam Rector? I didn't.
4. On Friday night, Roy Jacobstein, Gary Lilley, Robert Thomas (from "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"), Rick Bursky, George Higgins (along with George's lovely daughter, a freshman at Emory University) and I went out for dinner at Fuego. The food was great and it was good to catch up with poet-friends who are also graduates of the Warren Wilson MFA program.
5. Despite all this name-dropping, the truth is that I didn't socialize much at the Conference. I didn't go to any of the evening events (Uhmm...I can't see all that well in daylight!) and because I don't drink--being in an alcohol-fueled social setting makes me nervous, even 17 years into the mission--I try to avoid bars and cocktail parties.
6. My eyes were troublesome. That will be the last Conference I go to without Marcia along to guide me around, or perhaps without a white cane. I sat in the front row at most of the events, however, and didn't have any problems seeing the presentations. I was rather proud of the fact that I never seemed more lost than anyone else and didn't bump into anyone or knock over any of the book displays.
7. I did think that the Book Fair was claustrophobic and poorly organized, but the organizational problems probably had more to do with the space and the small tables than anything else.
8. No, I never did find Mary Biddinger. I wandered from the Steel Toe Books table to the RHINO table several times looking for her. I now have the only unsigned copy of Prairie Fever sold at the AWP Book Fair. Everyone kept saying, "You can't miss her; she's really tall. Like, about six feet or something."
9. The best restaurant I ate at was Wasabi, a small sushi place on Walker Street. It was so good (and so close to my hotel) I ate there twice. Check it out next time you're in Atlanta.
10. Or perhaps the best part of the Conference was running into Mary Leader, one of my instructors from Warren Wilson, at the Purdue University reading. Mary is now on the faculty at Purdue and I regret that I didn't have much of a chance to talk to her--she was off to the airport immediately after the event.