The moving finger writes . . .
Flew West from Central PA Wednesday night, then drove down to the AWP from Santa Barbara the next morning, arriving just in time to check in and catch the panel dedicated to the work of Rae Armantrout, who has another new book on its way.
Walking into Claudia Rankine's keynote, you immediately saw the effects of fame -- I've never seen a crowd like this, in a room like this, for any poet. The only thing I could compare it to was the crowd listening to President Johnson at the Lincoln Memorial during the tribute to the late Carl Sandburg. Have to say Rankine's lecture was better than Johnson's.
The next day there was a smaller, but still large, audience for a talk by Elizabeth Alexander. Elizabeth was graceful as always.
I finally found the session of LA Poetry readings in the vastness of the exhibition hall -- turns out there was a third reading stage in there. Got to it in time to catch the poets.
BUT, in a nation of nothing but off-site readings, the best ever was the group reading marking publication of the anthology What I Say: Innovative Poetry by Black Writers in America. The event was held at a new venue on Cal State LA's downtown campus, and drew local poetry lovers along with the AWP crowd. When the recording appears on Penn Sound, listen to Tracie Morris's description of the crowd!
I had just seen Rodrigo Toscano at Louisville -- Here he was as part of a neo-Ash Can school session -- Explosion Rocks AWP
E. Ethelbert Miller, frequent flyer at the Heat Strings Blog, was awarded the George Garrett Award by the AWP for his outstanding service to literature over the decades. I've known Ethelbert since the 70s and could think of few more deserving of this honor. And it comes in the same year as his collected poems --
Caught a set of readings, largely ekphrastic, all art obsessed, during which I heard some odd characterizations of the great painter Alma Thomas -- But Cole Swenson was on that session, and presented powerful work --
Last thing I got to was the panel I was there to speak on, organized by Laura Hinton to consider Jayne Cortez's Los Angeles roots. Jayne's husband, the great artist Melvin Edwards, was on hand, as was Cortez's sister, Shawn , and Shawn's adult children, making for the proverbial family affair. The panel also marked the release of the collection Laura edited on Jayne Cortez and Adrienne Rich, published by Lexington Books.
Gotta fly -- see y'all next time --
and the sun did indeed sink slowly in the West --