Postcard from Perugia (and many other places) [by Moira Egan]
["I summon to the winding ancient stair"? no, we went round the long way. Perugia at night]
These days, for me, jet lag in this direction is much worse than jet lag going to the States. Going that way, my clock is just a little off, so I get to pretend that I'm a morning person (ha!) But coming back this way, I zap right up at 3 in the morning and I'm wide awake until 5 or 6. I'm only happy about this now because it gives me more time to read Words in Air, the letters between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, as I'm sure you know, and if you haven't gone out and plonked down the 45 dollars (or however many Euro it was; I think we got it through Amazon.France--quelle bonne idee pour nous expatries! and I'm not putting in the diacritics because they mess up everything!), please do.
It's a wonderful book, full of humor and love, intelligence, pathos and literary gossip. Last night, for example, I went from EB saying "I feel awful about Hemingway's suicide" to talking about organizing the gift of a Brazilian dress for little Harriet Lowell: "Or how about a monkey instead of a new dress? He would adore your various typewriters and might learn to pick out Beat poetry." Yes that was EB, not me!
But I certainly empathize with EB's sense of weird displacement, "Where am I and where do I belong?" (My quote, not hers.) Here is my home, after all: my husband of a year and some; my cat who's been with me for nearly twelve years (both of whom were happy to see me upon my return, I'm glad to report); my little studio. But god it felt good to shut off the part of my brain that needs to process each element of every sentence I'm about to utter: subject, verb conjugation, appropriately mated adjectives and past participles if there are any, etc. etc. What a wonderful feeling to be fluent. [And I am working on that in Italian--but part of the problem is that I live in Rome. Imagine studying English as Another Language with Tom Brokaw, and then being plopped down in the Bronx, or New Orleans. Good luck, Buddy.]
But the trip was wonderful, and I'm not even going to start naming names. It was lovely to read in NYC with David Lehman and Laura Cronk, at the beautifully decadent (speaking of New Orleans) Duane Park Cafe. Wee-oh Erotic Poems and Tea! And to hang out later with David, Stacey, fellow blogger Joy Katz, et al. And how many categories of People Whom I Miss did I get to see in Chicago at AWP? Dear old friends, dear slightly-less-old friends, classmates from graduate school, people who knew my father (and maybe even were helped by him to go in the direction of being poets), people met at previous AWP's. Well, you know how it is at these conferences, but when you live several time zones away from people you really like, being able to see so many in one weekend is a real gift.
And many people asked: Did you come all the way from Italy just for this conference? No, in fact, my beloved and very considerate niece had had a baby the week before. Isn't it nice when family and poetry coincide?