Thursday, June 16, 2011

West Chester Day IV

So this will be my last blogpost about West Chester, and then I can go on to blogging about... other things, lol.

Day IV sure was a great 'grand finale' for me! I headed over to breakfast a little late, but not too late. I ended up chatting with a really facinating gentleman, Johnathan Greenfield, over numerous cups of coffee. Again, one of the things I really like about West Chester is the friendly atmosphere. Johnathan and I swapped rejection letter woe stories, and success stories, too. He's actually a really talented jewelary designer, and later I find out he's also a... M.D. Talk about multi-talented. Anyway, we had a good talk and when I finally noticed the time, the first panel had already passed and it was almost time for my appointment with Dana Gioia! :-D

So I rush over to the union. Dana said to meet him on the second floor. I'm fiddling with my fingers, nervous and excited and all sorts of other emotions. I'm worrying to myself, will Dana like my work? What will he have to say to me? I don't write in strict meter. I should write in strict meter. What am I doing here? Did Dana invite me into his workshop by mistake? I'm a terrible poet. I'm a talented poet. Oh, there's Dana!

LoL. Yeah, my self doubt can sometimes get the best of me.

So I wave him down, and we head into an empty classroom. The first thing I ask him is, did you bring me into your workshop by some tragic mistake? Because... I'm not really a metrical poet....

and he laughs. "No no, my dear," he answers "if you've learned anything from the workshop, you'll see that I don't believe one has to write in meter to write good poetry."

PHEW! Yeah, ok, so he HAD been saying that all week... but still...

Anyway, that aside I feel ready to talk about the actual poems. I only brought unpublished poems that I actually needed help with, I tell him, so I can make good use of the guidence and workshop. He gives me a lot of really really really super helpful feedback, specific suggestions. He's so encouraging, too. Two of the poems in particular he really likes, and he even gives me suggestions as to where I should publish them. "You'll have no problem publishing," he tells me. "You've got real promise kid" I then got all warm and fuzzy inside.

So my appointment with Dana was 40 minutes, but in reality it feels more like 4 minutes. Before I realize it, its time to go :-( But no worries, he tells me, he'd like me to meet with another friend of his for more advice. Yay!

After my workshop, I'm just super excited and happy about the way things went. I head outside to just sit in the sun for a bit, let everything sink in. As I'm sitting outside, staring at the sky, I notice this huge butterfly sailing through the wind. It didn't even look real, a pastel green shade with a lilac colored spot, and a long, elegant swallowtail. It's about the size of two outstetched palms. Que pretty!

I'm watching it, trying to figure out if this thing is real, or some sort of toy. I'm following it with my eyes as it heads towards a tree, wishing I could touch its wings to see if its real. Like in a dream, you know? If you touch it, that means its real. Anyway, then it disappears!

Huh? Where'd it go? I hear a crunching sound, a bird! Tearing those wings to pieces and tossing them to the ground. A wing fragment floats to my feet, and I pick it up, soft and covered in butterfly dust. Amazing, and sad.

Anyway, that was my emo moment of the morning. I head back inside for some coffee, and take a seat in the sitting room. I'm about to pull out my phone when Alex Pepple takes a seat next to me! Yes, Alex Pepple, editor publisher of Able Muse. He asks me about my workshop with Dana, and we talk about Able Muse, Eratosphere, and other things. I ask him about his panel (which will be later that afternoon) if he's ready/nervous and he laughs. "Are you coming?" He asks. I shake my head, no.

"I have an appointment with a friend of Dana's, to go over some more of my poems."

"That Dana," Alex replies, "he's a good friend to have. He's got connections!"

And ain't that the truth! Alex invites me to submit my workshopped poems to Able Muse, and I tell him yes, yes of course they'll be coming his way.

Lunch is up next, so I head over to the cafeteria. But... what? I'm one of the first people there? LOL, yeah ok so I was a little hungry. I end up sitting with a group of Mezzo Cammin ladies who talk about revisionist mythmaking! Wow! One of them knows Alicia Ostriker, who, I like, practically wrote my thesis on. I ask all sorts of questions between mouthfuls of food. LOL.

After lunch I have my final workshop with Dana, and he again gives some really great advice. We read through some great poems (filled of course with great lines) and he gives some abstract but strikingly true advice about language and beauty. He suggests we start memorizing poems, having a repiorire of poems we can recite aloud at any given moment, to really take poetry into our being and appreciate it. Where else have I heard that advice? Why, from Kim Addonizio's Ordinary Genius!

Anyway, after the workshop I meet Dana's friend Len Krisak who is another really talented poet and all around just intelligent man. Len walks me through a poem and does an incredibly close reading of my sonnet. Wow. He points out all sorts of things in the poem, catches every subtle nuance. He gave me so much specific feedback and suggestions for revision... now Len's a bit more of a traditionalist than Dana, I learn. He's all for strict meter and exact rhymes. I had to remember, that's his aesthetic, and, well is not really mine. But his advice could be applied regardless, and was extremely helpful. Len also gives me some practical advice on publishing, which is of course invaluable. Gosh, all these experienced poets taking the time to help me out... how lucky am I? :-)

After my meeting with Len, I try to catch at least some of Alex's panel on Able Muse. I sneak in at the end, and Alex is talking about his future plans for the press, which include Kindle and Ipad versions. Wow! I'm impressed. The publications look so professional, and yet Able Muse is able to produce an anthlogy, journals, and poetry manuscripts. Its just amazing the amount of work and attention that goes into these publications. Anyway, after the panel I head to the bookstore. On my schedule, I notice a book signing is coming up! I had promised to bring back a book for my buddy, Linda, and I wanted to get a copy of Molly Peacock's The Second Blush and Dana Gioia's Can Poetry Matter. So I do my shopping! :-)

After that, I sneak back into the theater to catch the tail end of another panel, which is actually a reading with Marilyn Nelson. How many opportunities am I going to have in life to hear all of these fantastically talented poets read? Not many. She reads this amazing poem about conjoined twins. It was hauntingly beautiful.

After the reading comes the book signing. I'm just a little giddy. First, I head over to Dana's table before the crowd comes. Dana signs my book, and tells me we have to keep in touch. He gives me his personal email address and asks me to send over my revised poems to him in a few weeks, and also to let him know when I get published again. I vow to do so! Of course. What a great opportunity. Dana remarks that he loves West Chester because it attracts the best young poets. Awww...

Ok so after my conversation with Dana, I head over to Molly Peacock's table to get her to sign her book. Molly, also super nice, gives me her contact info. Send me your thesis, she tells me. What? Really? You want to read that hulking document? Absolutely. Send it right away. I'm embarressed a little and now I have to go back and revise one more time before she reads it :-D

And last but not least, I have the nerve to chat up Kim Addonizio, who was my first poetry hero back when I started writing poetry. I tell her such, that I have all her poetry guides and return to them time and time again. She smiles, I think a bit overwhelmed. I had her a pile of books to sign (since, well, I've been collecting for years!) and she laughs. I know, I tell her, they look old, but its just because they're so well loved. And that's the truth.

Next up is social hour and picnic, but since the weather is a bit ominious it will be an indoor picnic. Cool cool... I find Tara and we head to the cafeteria together, and I meet another youngin' Hannah. Phew! I learn I'm not the youngest West Chesterian! And we kind of stick together, talking about workshops and... well... what girls of our age tend to talk about together... MEN! ;-) At dinner, we sit together, and at our table comes none other than David Mason! Gerry Cambridge (whom I met earlier, the editor of Dark Horse) also joins us, and several other poets. The dinner conversation starts high, we talk about opera and poetry, formalist techniques, but as we down the wine we start talking about other slightly less dignified things.
As we're finishing dinner, I feel a hand on my shoulder. Who is this? I look behind me, and KIM! Kim Addonizio! She has one arm around my shoulders, and the other around Tara's. "You always know where the cool table is when you find the young blonds," she remarks with a sly smile. I nod, sure! Gerry plus out a bag from beneath the table.

"Fancy a wee tootle, Kim?" he asks.

She looks at me, confused. I shrug my shoulders, I don't speak Scottish! LOL.

He pulls out a bag from underneath the table, and opens it for us to see. Ah, harmonicas! That's right, it's all making sense to me now :) Kim plays harmonica, it says so in her books! Kim laughs, "yeah, let's play! But not here, it's too noisy. How about back at the hotel bar. Would you ladies like to join us?"

Would I ever! But... wait... where's the hotel and how am I going to get back and whose driving and have they been drinking.... my shuttle to the airport leaves at 5am and.... I just tell her I'll meet her there if I can find a way over. And I never did get over there... but in reality the rest of the evening was just as eventful.

So after dinner, we walk over to the theater where there's going to be a Mo-town opera concert. COOL! And it was cool, imagine an opera version of "sugar pie honey cup," yeah, that's how it was. After the opera, I'm about to head back to the dorm when someone stops me. It's Alex! "Going back so soon?" he asks. I explain about my early flight, and he offers to take Tara and I to the dance party in his car and promises to bring us back early. I look over at Tara and shrug. She nods. Let's go!

We're a little lost, the GPS leading us into a seemingly residental area. The three of us get out of the car, hearing music and merriment in a backyard. Is this the West Chester Dance Party? No, no it was not. Oops. They did look slightly afraid of us... but gave us directions to the art museum where the festivities were set to take place. So we crossed the street, laughing all the way. I had a great time at the party, chatting with many people over a few glasses of wine. There was plenty of dancing, and a whole lot of fun. It was nice to see all the poets I admire really cutting loose and having a great time. I really was worried about getting back at a decent time, since my shuttle was leaving at 5am, so I did leave a little early.

The moment I got back to my dorm room, I call up the BruBru to let him know I've arrived safely, and then proceed to crash. What an experience!

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