August 12, 2010

Whither Went July?

So, it's been a few days. And by days, I mean weeks. Where to begin? The first-person litany:

I read in Nashville, which was lovely for all the traditional reasons--a big crowd, a fancy promo poster with my cover art and my name in six-inch-tall letters, drinks afterwards with local writers. 

I read in Tupelo, which was lovely for all the wrong reasons. The coordinator had broken her ankle shortly after we'd booked the date and had been unable to publicize anywhere; the bookstore didn't even know I was coming.  But the audience of only three included Chico, a man who had hitch-hiked from Oxford to hear me read--and his niece, who he was determined to give my book for her high school graduation. Luckily I had some copies in my trunk, since the bookstore hadn't ordered any. Afterwards we drove around Tupelo and I got a natives' tour, pointing out the places that were still in their pre-Elvis state. We saw the shack where Mr. Presley was born (and which his family was evicted from only a couple of years later, after his dad altered a check). I gave Chico a ride back home afterwards and we talked of his hitch-hiking adventures, which included being in Czechoslovakia and stumbling across a cache of Iron-Curtain smugglers who had learned perfect English in order to comprehend the Beatles records they were smuggling.  As small crowds go, I'll take it. 

I threw my own going-away party in Oxford, and it felt like the whole darn town came out. There was bocce. There was wine. There was Sam Cooke and Johnny Cash and Gillian Welch and Howlin' Wolf on the iPod, part of my "Grisham House" mix, which led to a later-night discussion of music with a few Square Books' staffers who possibly hadn't been out and about since they had kids. There was a sense that I've found a home away from home that will always be waiting for me.  

I did some ruminating on technology over at Nic Sebastian's blog, Very Like a Whale. The Poetry Foundation picked up the link, calling me a "Twitterless poet" but noting I have a Facebook account. I have since been deluged with Facebook friend requests. 

I went to Cleveland State University to take part on the faculty of their Imagination Conference. Highlights included hilarious and dark readings from Sam Lipsyte and Jess Walter, a very impassioned discussion of Stephen King's It, and playing the role of "Shy," the 20-year-old hooker in Aaron Burch's short story in front of an auditorium of conference-goers, for which my dialogue consisted mainly of trying to bargain the protagonist up from a $250 handjob to a $5K three-way. (As Jess said afterwards..."Thank god it wasn't a student who volunteered, because otherwise we'd have had a lawsuit on our hands.")

At CSU I gave a craft talk on poetry and strategy, which I'll use to structure a workshop at the Writer's Center next spring. I'm teaching a TWC class called "Poets Teaching Poets," which starts up next month. I'll also host the Friday-night Story/Stereo series this fall, which kicks off with an amazing September 3 event featuring poet Allison Benis White, fiction writer Aryn Kyle, and musician John Davis of Title Tracks (formerly of the legendary DC bands Q And Not U and Georgie James).

I did a little more ruminating as part of Andrew Tonkovitch's "Bibliocracy" radio show aired in Los Angeles on KPFK, and then here, as part of Rachelle Cruz's Blood-Jet Poetry Hour series. I got Fishoused

There was a break-up. There was finding a new apartment. There was driving fifteen hours in one day because coming back to Oxford seemed the only sane option. There were catfish tacos at the Main Squeeze. There was nightswimming. There was blurbing the forthcoming Black Lawrence chapbook by Lisa Fay Coutley, which kicks ass. There was wing-stretching, soft-stepping over monkey-grass, maybe a love or two. 

There is staring down the barrel of the fifteen-hour drive to go back and actually move into said new apartment.

There is you. I missed you. And I'm back.