October 28, 2008

So...there WERE meetings, right?

Fair question. Yes, there were meetings. Over sushi. In a stunning 14th Street apartment. In the Algonquin Hotel. Poring pages of Cabinet magazine with its editors, talking trim size and funding and experiments gone horribly right or wrong.

Over and over I asked: What's your favorite part about what you do?

An "eh" meeting was simply Here's who I am, Here's what I can offer you (e.g. not much), Do you have any questions. A good meeting involved volunteering the authors, projects or trends we are truly excited about (and there's a risk there; you never know if you're naming the subject of a grudge, a bad review, or a failed book bid). A great meeting involved someone jumping out of a chair to pull a book off the shelf.

Some of the best conversations were with people who are not editors, not publishers, not people who can "do" or assign something, just fellow poets whose work I love--Jeffrey McDaniel, Josh Bell, Marie Howe--and those hours were like water to a thirsty soul.

I discovered the paucity of coffeeshops in any part of Manhataan other than Soho. I realized that I would rather work in magazines than teach. I affirmed that I am a DC girl, though New York charms me more with each visit.

Personal highlight: I walked into McNally Jackson, a to-die-for bookstore on Prince Street, and in the poetry section I found not one, but TWO copies of my book. Face out on the shelf! Yes, I took a photo, because I am dorky like that.

I returned full of ideas. A dream of being a Penguin author. Seeds for scholarly essays, interviews with artists, sestinas, treatises on color, a book about allergies. It's tough because here, back in the maelstrom of everyday life (aggravated by a two-week absence) I will have to fight to make time for these projects. But I owe it to myself--and to Poets & Writers, having blessed me with this opportunity--to try.


I am slowly but surely reconnecting with being home. You know how sometimes you schedule something, and then life intervenes, and then all of a sudden you're just THERE? In my case, "there" was in the studio of FM radio's WPFW (89.3 to DC folks), joining local legend Reuben Jackson for his Monday poetry hour. It could have been a disaster. We didn't know each other that well; we had an hour to fill; and the MS I had grabbed on my way out the door to read from turned out to be missing the entire last section of poems. So I was a bit hampered in my selections, and prayed that the conversation would not naturally cue me to read a poem I did not, in fact, have handy.

But you know what? The hour flew by. Reuben's questions were on-target, thoughtful, and reflected his generosity of spirit and understanding of the poetry world. The sound engineer gave me silent snaps in the air when I read "Osiris Speaks." I managed to adopt a more even-keeled voice than I do in readings (which might have boomed in the microphone) and resisted (or at least toned down) any emphatic hand gestures. It was fun--really fun. And Mark Dawson, another great Washington poet, emailed to say that while stuck in the rush hour traffic of Silver Spring, he'd actually stumbled across the station and tuned in. We had an audience! Of one, maybe, but at least he's one of my favorites.

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