Entered Marriott without incident and headed to conference registration line. All preparations made for lines out the door (plenty of that maroon velvet snakey stuff on poles), but it was just me in the R-S column. Grabbed my complimentary book bag (much sturdier than the ones in Denver--mine long ago went kaput--and a much more pleasing beige) with requisite 2-lb. Conference Catalog, along with most-essential name tag. First stop, Bookfair.
For those of you who are not here with us in DC, let me just say the Bookfair is easily twice the size of the one in Denver, or at least to my recollection. It stretches on for miles in many, many directions. I had quite a time trying to figure out the logic of the numbering/lettering system (come to think of it, I have yet to discern the logic). Suggestion to the Board (listening, Oliver?): how about putting the booths in alphabetical order? That would really help, cuz we're writers, you know, and we do much better with A-Z than 332 and D and 102 and 66 and B. It gets sorta confusing trying to navigate??
Okay, but enough complaining. If I do not make it back to the Bookfair again (which is indeed not the case), I accomplished enough this morning to make my trip to DC worthwhile. To what accomplishment to I refer? None other than visiting the American Poetry Review table and picking out TWO ancient, weathered, back issues of the magazine, one from May/June 1973, and the other from 1976. Guess who's face graces the cover of the '73 issue? Anne Sexton. Also in this issue: James Wright, Philip Levine, Robert Bly, Jane Kenyon, Jim Harrison, Donald Hall, Mark Strand, and Diane Wakoski, among others.
I do not usually enjoy the smell of old print/ink, but these have an almost intoxicatingly musty sent that smells like, well, 1973, when people let newspaper clippings stack up until they yellowed. When the news was either in print or on the television/radio.
The 1976 issue features, along with Maxine, Adrienne Rich, Pablo Neruda, Theodore Roethke, Ellen Bryant Voight, Robert Lowell, and Brenda Hillman. Oh, and George Oppen.
There's a picture of Maxine with one of her horses (Boomerang). She's in her--early 40s? She looks about 25. She has some guns on those arms! And Adrienne Rich's contribution is an excerpt from Of Woman Born.
Can you believe that APR was charging $1 an issue for these? The advertisement of Sexton's The House of Folly is worth more than that.
Anyway, after that huge coup I raced over to Sean Dougherty's mega-stellar-awesome reading with his incredible posse (Crystal Williams, Silvana Straw, Roger Bonair-Agard, Dora McQuaid). The only sad part was that I was 15 minutes late, which meant I missed Sean's reading (dang!!!) and walked in half way through Silvana Straw's contribution, which immediately had me laughing too loud as she called out the letters of the beaded necklace her speaker had made: F*U*W (which translates to Fuck You, W). My fav line from Silvana: "The Americans are not dancing."
Before you hate me for walking in late, let me defend myself. I was racing toward the Executive Room and I spied a black wallet on the floor, so I lost 10 minutes racing back to Reception to turn it into the Concierge. (Yep, if you're reading this Young Woman from Oregon, it was me!).
Anyhoo, a little good karma added to my stash, and then I got to hear Roger Bonair-Agard read his incredibly powerful, moving, honest, funny, and revolutionary poems, including "Ode to the Man Who Grabbed Me By the Arm" and "All Black Penguin," among others. (Had never heard of him before. Loved him, as I did Silvana Straw. You see what I was saying about discovery?)
Then Dawn McQuaid got up and said "Love is a revolutionary act," then read poems about being in love with a Cherokee and not being able to speak in the house of God at her own father's funeral because the priest told her she was not a practicing Catholic. Her response? I am the house of God.
Crystal Williams finished up this most worthwhile and lively reading with her gorgeous poems about Detroit.
I am so glad I made it to this reading! Thanks, Sean, for putting together a winner.
Then I had lunch at the Lebanese Taverna. Ooh, la, la, that Mediterranean Mezza Plate was to die for. Thanks to Barbara Crooker, for leading me there, letting me gush about my kids, and generally making for a most pleasant lunch!
(L to R: Sean Thomas Dougherty, Roger Bonair-Agard, Dora McQuaid, Crystal Williams, Silvana Straw)
What a first day!
Stay tuned for full reports from Bardeo Wine Bar (Saturnalia and Painted Bride Quarterly Reading), at 5 pm tonight, plus who knows what shenanigans after hours . . .