West Chester, Day II

My second day at West Chester!

The next morning, I wake up - late. Doh!

I took a quick shower, and headed over to breakfast (late) and... well... ate in a hurry so I wouldn't miss the panels. Well, I missed part of a panel on poetry and place. Just heard the tail end of it, but it sounded so interesting! Especially because a lot of my poems are influenced greatly on the landscape of the valley...

After that, I saw Bill, from the airport. The previous night at dinner we started talking about William S. Burroughs. I actually know quite a bit about him, so I thought it was my one opportunity to say smart things to someone with a PhD. :-P Anyway, he brought a book for me to read about Burroughs written in blank verse. Go figure! I was Rick Mullin's book Hunke (heh heh, a play on Burrough's Junkie...) anyway I got about halfway through it by the end of the conference.

Anyway, the next panel was a Robert Pinksy interview by Dana Gioia, which was actually really really interesting. I'll never forget one of the things Pinksy said - he told a story about his daughter in veterinary school. She was watching a lecture, and was studying a disected dog's head. Gross! But she was fascinated by it, studying the ways the nerves work, which muscles move the eyes and how...

It was only because she'd had great experiences with dogs before, fed, walked, bathed, that she was able to appreciate the beauty of taking one apart. And poetry's like that too. If you're first introduced to poetry by taking it apart, you're going to think its gross and disgusting. But if you're introduced to the beauty of poetry first, you'll eventually want to take it apart and learn about how it works.

Yeah, I thought to myself. That's right. I have to remember that for my students :-)

Anyway, Pinsky left us with that thought. Afterwards, I headed back to my room for a little. I don't know why, but I was starting to feel homesick and needed to talk to BruBru. I needed to decompress and be alone for a bit before lunch. I just kept thinking, all these people around me, everyone so friendly and nice, but I feel alone without anyone to REALLY talk to. So I excused myself and headed off to the dorms.

Anyway, after my brief emo moment, it was lunch time. On my way to the elevator, I saw a woman and introduced myself. It turns out she was April Lindner! Who actually knew who I was thanks to one of my professors. She invited me to lunch, and, how could I not accept! She was so sweet, introduced me to all of her friends, on in particular, Gerry Cambridge, editor and publisher of Dark Horse!

After lunch was day I of my workshop with Dana Gioia. I was nervous and excited to participate. I was the last one to arrive, but I was on time I promise! LOL. Anyway, Dana gave some really great advice in the workshop. He talks about how poetic lines should be stories themselves, able to stand alone and sound beautiful. Great poems are filled with great lines, lines you can quote and remember and take into yourself. Really some good advice. It reminded me of what my professor Emmy would say, that lines should be like the stations on the cross - each should make your reader stop for a moment and contemplate. Anyway, the most refreshing thing about Dana's workshop is that he didn't completely dismiss free verse. I was so worried that somehow he'd made a mistake and allowed me into his juried workshop, because, well, I mostly write free verse! But no, that was one of the first things he said, that we're all here by our merits and that he respects all styles of poetry. What a guy...

Anyway, after the workshop, Dana stops me and says he wants to know more about me. Huh? Me? Little old me? We go downstairs and have a cup of coffee, he asks me about my education, what I do for a living, my future plans... it was cool! I tell him that I want to go on to get my PhD, and he gives me some great advice about which track to go etc. He then introduces me to a group of his friends, one of whom is Alex Pepple, publisher of Able Muse Press. and Dick Davis, poet and translator.

After chatting with the group, I head back to my dorm room, head full of information, to get ready for the evening. I take a little nap, talk with BruBru on the phone, and kick up my feet before heading over to the dining hall.

The sky was beginning to turn gray, and the wind was blowing. In heels, I'm not a very good runner... I'm staring down at my feet trying not to trip, trying to beat the storm when...

"Need a lift?" a voice asks.

I look up, and standing there, holding open the door for me, is none other than Molly Peacock! I nod, "are you heading to the reading?" I ask, not knowing what else to say.

"Yes," she answers, "I'm driving, and you're welcome to join me"

I smile and nod. I'm thinking giddy thoughts to myself, and follow her out to the parking lot, both of us trying to run but still look a bit dignified. "You're Molly Peacock, aren't you?" I ask, following behind her.

"Why yes I am," she answers. I introduce myself, tell her I'm a huge enormous fan.

As we get into her car, I tell her about my thesis, how I talk about her, and how she's really influenced my work. She gets all tickled pink! And she tells me that tonight, she'll be reading from her latest book - The Paper Garden. I also learn that Molly used to be an academic advisor, just like me :)

When we get to the theater, I tell her good luck and we part ways. As much as I wanted to follow her everywhere, she seemed a bit nervous and overwhelmed for her reading. I find a familiar face in the crowd, my dorm neighbor Roberta, and we sit together and chat about all things poetry. When the reading begins, I'm in heaven! LOL. On the lineup was Kim Addonizio, Dick Davis, Allison Joseph, David Mason, Molly Peacock, and Timothy Steele. I particularly loved Kim Addonizio's reading, as I knew I would! :D

Afterwards, I head back to the dorm with Roberta. Again, there's an after party going on but again, I'm pretty much exhausted and not in the mood. On the walk home, I talk with several other poets, like Becky and Tara from the previous day. Once I get up to my dorm room, I'm pooped, exhausted, and ready for Day III!