This is my first post for my week as BAP guest blogger and it will be short. Tonight for dinner I ate something called a Liberty Tavern Club. It had an egg on it. It didn’t go very well with my nut brown ale. Actually, my two nut brown ales.
I'm out of town for the weekend, attending the South Carolina Book Festival. I’m feeling a little out of context, although I'm only 90 miles from home. I’m out on the road, "barnstorming for poetry," as James Dickey once called these sorts of visits to literary events.
I'll admit this blog got me thinking about the poetry community a little more than I usually do. All the way down from Spartanburg I kept pondering the South Carolina Poetry Universe that I've been a part of for 30 years. I tried to define it in my mind. You know, just exactly how far out on the edge of the literary solar system is my little corner of the South Carolina? I even tried to decide about our Captain Kirk.
When I arrived in Columbia I had to stop thinking in metaphors and start unloading books. I helped my wife Betsy (above) set up her booth. She's a small press publisher, with Hub City Press, and she hopes to sell a few hundred dollars worth of books this weekend.
Hers is the real ground war of literature-- out there hand-selling books. My wife does this on a regular basis. She's good at it. Today she sold almost $500 worth of books to strangers, a few of them even poetry books.
When I come to events like this I always want to hob-knob with the local Dylan Thomases, but soon reality sets in. All around Betsy’s booth were hordes of self-publishers who had rented a booth too. They were offering bowls of candy. They were often dressed up in costumes. Why were they willing to resort to carnival gimmicks? They are desperate to swim into the view field of somebody with a telescope trained on a literary universe.
But lots of good poets did come by the booth to check in while we sold books, and none of them were in costume. There was Jim Peterson (above), a former South Carolina poet friend down from Virgina for a tribute to recently deceased poet Stephen Gardner, Kwame Dawes (left), director of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative, Marjory Wentworth, South Carolina’s poet laureate (below).
When I get a chance tomorrow I’ll send in a longer report on this event with a little more detail. You might know the characters, and you might not. Question of the day: Would you dress up in costume to sell a book?