Saturday at AWP included a few celebrity sightings (see below).
In the morning, I met an interesting poet and fiction writer named Siobahn (sp?) over breakfast; I admire writers who can cross genres and do it well, such as Nance Van Winckel (whose reading I unfortunately missed; though I did get to say hi to her on the elevator). Saw Sharon Hashimoto and Michael Spence, a handsome long-term literary couple in Seattle. Ran into Kelly Agodon at the “Seven Deadly Sins” panel, and laughed about how popular all the panels were that had “taboo” “transgression” “vice” “sex” “sin” or “gay” in their titles. (Mental note: make sure to include all those words in a panel proposal for next year). Sharon Dolin had some interesting ideas about how a “curse can become an ode.” Peter Covine (who is a real hottie) read a fascinating, moving essay about his own personal “sins” of indulgence. I have to get his chapbook Straight Boyfriend, or perhaps his new book Cut Off the Ears of Winter. I nearly died when Kim Addonizzio, in the middle of her talk about “exorcising vs. exercising vice” whipped out a little metal flask and took a swig, saying “is this water? is this vodka? you’d really like to know, wouldn’t you?” Hahaha.
I was a little nervous for my reading with the other Copper Canyon/Hayden Carruth winners. Thanks to everybody who came: especially Chris Forhan, Charles and Woody, Rebecca: it was nice to have some familiar faces in the audience. It was a fun reading, and so good to finally meet Rebecca Wee and Jenny Factor, and to share the stage with them. I joked that we are like siblings separated at birth. I enjoyed reading Hayden Carruth’s poem “Life at 74.” I just love how he has approached aging with vim and vigor and cantankerousness.
After the reading several people came up to chat, or have a book signed. One guy looked exactly like Johnny Depp, and when I told him this he blushed and said people tell him this all the time. He said he was a high school English teacher somewhere in Pennsylvania (?) and he just wanted to tell me he loved my poem “Anagrammer” and has been teaching it in his writing classes, and that the students really dig it. It was sweet of him to go out of his way to tell me this; and I don’t know about you, but I really like the idea that high school kids could like my poems. Not to mention that their teacher looks like Johnny Depp. (Maybe it really was Johnny Depp?)
After the reading I went with Woody and his friend Rebecca for a cocktail. It was really busy in the bar at the Hyatt, either because all the AWP-ers were through with "conferencing" for the day and were getting ready to tie one on, or because the Illinois-Michigan State game had just started (probably both). It took forever to get served, but when our waitress finally arrived she looked exactly like Gwen Stefani. I am not kidding! I told her this, and I couldn’t tell if she took it as a compliment, or a come-on, or was just too freaking busy to want to deal. But she just rolled her eyes. Anyway; our drinks were really really strong: perhaps their way to appease us for the slow service? And the French fries with garlic were just yummy.
I got to briefly meet a few other bloggers, including Paul Guest. And to touch bases with Claudia Mauro of Whit Press, and one of my former teachers from undergrad at UW, Colleen McElroy (was it really 1979? OMG I feel old now). But I never did get to meet Aimee Nezhukumatathil (though I think I’ve finally learned how to spell her name).
It was a fun conference. But after a three hour drive in the pouring rain, with the freeway frequently turning to a white-out mist with visibility of about three inches, I am glad to be home, safe and warm.