At the AWP conference, in full swing today, there are two types of people in abundance: those who are walking around - browsing the book fair, looking at other people's name tags in the corridors of the Hilton, wandering around Michigan Ave. in search of a place to eat (suggestion: remove your name tag) - and those who are sitting at book fair booths (really just tables of varying proportions) or attending panels. For various reasons, I lean toward the sitting, myself - partly because I'm obliged by certain duties to sit in certain places, partly because I'm a poetry potato (sits, reads), partly because you have to walk a lot in Chicago to go anywhere and I'm tired all the time. I therefore feel pretty knowledgeable about being seated.
And it looks as if I'm not alone. There's been quite a bit of interest lately in writers' desks... where writers sit, and sit, and sit.
Well what about their sofas? Check out this news story:
Staff at the Pushkin Apartment Museum in St. Petersburg expect a historical sensation if a scientific analysis proves that the museum’s sofa is the one on which the famed 19th-century Russian poet and author died in 1837.
Alexander Pushkin died in St. Petersburg on Feb. 10, 1837, at the age of 37, as the result of a duel with the French-born Georges Dantes. Pushkin was shot in the stomach and died two days later at his home on the river Moika.
The results of the preliminary tests have shown that the blood traces found on the sofa belonged to a man and were left many years ago, said Yury Molin, deputy head of the Leningrad Oblast Legal and Medical Analysis Bureau which carried out the analysis.
(That's some pretty good medical analysis...)
Now the hallmark of the AWP (beyond, that is, the peculiar of feeling depressed and isolated among literally thousands of people who share the same interests that you have) is serendipity. And so, at a pre-conference shindig Wednesday evening, I was introduced to Cornelius Eady, whom (see my post yesterday) I had never met, but felt as if I had already through his work. When Eady's first book came out, my mentor George Starbuck sold me on it - I can still see him waving the book in the air. Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (1985), was chosen by Louise Glück, Charles Simic, and Philip Booth for the 1985 Lamont Poetry Selection of The Academy of American Poets. Boy was I jealous... not of the prize, but of that wonderfully charismatic poetry. Anyway, a while ago he and I e-mailed back and forth about one thing or another, and he sent some poems for us to look at for Poetry, one of which was a long poem about trashpicking a sofa. A sofa! We weren't able to to it, as editors so feebly put it - but that poem has really stayed with me. I can never think of sofas, or trying to find the right place to sit, without thinking of it. And when I admitted this to Cornelius last night, he just threw back his very handsome head and laughed. I have to say, that's not the typical reaction concerning a rejected poem... In the poem, a question is how a woman and a man struggle over what their lives should look like and feel like, what kind of home they make together. The answer, if that's the right word for a poem's wisdom, is... there's a tussle, but things work out. That's how I read it, anyway. All kinds of different writers are together here for a few days, standing still or walking around in Chicago. Their work will find the right place, the right readers, you can count on it. Poetry always does find a home, maybe not here, perhaps not there... but someplace.
Off I go to another conference room to sit for a while... more soon, after I'm done being seated.