Friday, February 28, 2003

Oh lord I'm so tired. But you know, in spite of the madness and careerism gone amuck I'm having a great time and hanging out with great people. Met two of my Barrow Street publishers and they were as kind as could be to me. Saw some folks I met at Bread Loaf back in the day. Caught the tail end of a panel Jane Sprague gave along with Mairead Byrne, Kazim Ali, Pierre Joris, and one or two others whose names I didn't catch about the whole poetry and politics thing—it was scheduled at the last minute and was sparsely attended but was by far the most interesting and relevant thing I saw (or really, didn't see) all day. The book fair is really the reason to be here—almost all the small presses I've ever heard of (well, on the East Coast—West Coasters are generally underrepresented here) are here and there are delicious, candy-colored books strewn all around. If you pick up something to buy it, chances are excellent that the author is standing behind the little table prepared to sign it for you. The best part of the day was hanging around in the hotel bar in the late afternoon talking with people. I met an undergrad from SUNY Albany writing an honors thesis on Artaud that sounded fascinating—this guy has it much, much more together than I could even have conceived of being when I was a college senior. Patrick Herron from the Buffalo List was there and we had a stimulating discussion about alter egos (though Lester was not in evidence), the troubled relationship between academia and poetry, and government black ops. (Patrick seems to know a frightening amount about the lesser known excesses of our national security state.) A journal called Post Road was throwing a party in Fell's Point and a bunch of us went out and had dinner: my friend Brian Teare (whose must-buy book The Room Where I Was Born is coming out from Wisconsin in the fall), Jane, Jane's friend Kate whose last name alas I didn't catch (fill me in Jane!), and Karen Anderson and Gina DeFranco (both friends of mine from the Cornell PhD program who are also poets; Gina has a book forthcoming from University of Arizona Press). Had the first decent Chinese food I've eaten since moving to Ithaca and then home to the house of my friends Chris and Jeannie, who are gracious enough not to mind my comings and goings as long as I keep volunteering to walk the dogs.

I'm starting to think that any critical intelligence that I might bring to bear upon the AWP experience will not materialize, if it comes at all, until I'm safely home again on the island that is Ithaca. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, when some of the most interesting people here will be giving panels: Clayton Eshleman, Pierre Joris, Donald Revell, and some other interesting poets will be talking about translation in the morning, and there's a panel on campiness in poetry in the afternoon. Plus rumor has it that the books, which thus far I've only fondled, will be deeply discounted tomorrow as it's the last day of the conference. The Verse Press books look particularly delicious; I could eat them all.

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