TEXAS ROUND-UP: I'm back in Atlanta after a totally exhausting (but fun) time at the Austin International Poetry Festival. I was hoping to post again on Friday or Saturday, but it just wasn't possible...AIPF keeps you hopping. Here's a recap before I retire to the couch for downtime. I am seriously "poetry-ed" out at the moment.

I think I left off on Thursday before my late-night reading. The reading was good and we sold a few copies of Slow To Burn, but it was late and there were number of other events going on, so it was a fractured audience. I was blown away by Logan Phillips (who's also gorgeous) and Christopher Lee (gorgeous as well), but Suzy LaFollette didn't make the reading. It was great to see so many familiar faces from previous AIPF events, like Byron Kocen and Vicki Goldsberry. Many poets had flown in that day and were just ready for bed. I couldn't wait to get to the hotel and crawl into bed myself.

On Friday, there was the MetroMania reading at Ruta Maya, featuring all the press authors, plus others. I think this was my best reading of the weekend. My friend Joy B. was in the audience and we had a nice crowd. I was excited to read with Ed Madden, a great poet who teaches at the University of South Carolina. I'm hoping to have him on The Business of Words soon and possibly even go over to SC (and have him in Atlanta) for some type of reading. We had dinner together before the slam and discussed ideas. One of the big thrills of the day was when Ilya Kaminsky walked up to me and said "I've wanted to meet you" (I could have fainted). We have a mutual friend in Cecilia Woloch, so we talked briefly before having to go on to our events.

Okay, so here's my one complaint about this year's AIPF: the scheduling of the big AIPF Slam against the new "Dead Poets Slam." Anyone who's been to AIPF (or lives in Austin in general) knows the AIPF Slam draws a huge crowd of both attendees and residents to Ruta Maya. It's standing room only...and this year was no different. However, the Dead Poets Slam (where slammers chose a famous poet and competed with their work) was going on at the same time at St. Edward's University. I chose to stay at Ruta Maya (MetroMania had a table set up there as well...gotta support the press!), but also wanted to be at the DPS. I was told later that the audience for the DPS was meager and even those competing would have rather been at Ruta Maya. I'm sending a note along to organizers asking them not to make this mistake next year. I have a feeling both events would have been well-attended had they been scheduled on different evenings. I am thrilled to say that Lucy English (one of those lovely Brits) won the DPS with a selection of Sylvia Plath poems.

The AIPF Slam was brilliant as always. Eighteen poets competed, were whittled to nine and then to three: Mike Guinn, Sonya Renee and Chris Brown. Sonya Renee took top honor...her work was strong and consistent and she definitely deserved the win (NOTE: This is a correction. I stated here that Chris had actually won, but Sonya corrected me in a comment below.) My pal (and soon to be fellow Atlantan) Dr. Madelyn Hatter competed and did well. It was great to sit with her and catch up. After the slam, Joy was trying to hook me up with a fellow poet, which was sweet, but not happening. I prefer to keep my business and pleasure separate, plus long distance relationships never work.

On Saturday, I met Dr. Hatter and the MetroMania folk for brunch at El Soy y La Luna (delish!) and then we raced off to our reading at Mitchie's Fine Art. Got lost of course. It was a good reading, but not well attended. Another case of many events happening at the same time, fracturing the audience. Was thrilled to hear Suzy, Mike and Sonya perform again though. Can't get enough of their poetry! I drove Dr. H to her reading at Houston- Tillotson College, where we promptly got lost again. Austin has some crazy mixed up streets, so it's quite easy to get lost. I hung out for a bit, but then went and met Joy and her son, Kevin, for dinner. We gabbed and caught up and said goodbye for probably another year.

Last night was technically the closing event (Although there was a brunch and youth reading today that I had to miss) at Crail Hall downtown. Ilya read from Dancing in Odessa, which is one of my favorite books of poetry. Since Ilya is deaf and speaks in a heavy Russian accent, copies of his poems were passed out to the audience to follow along. It would have been almost impossible to understand him if this had not been done. There is is so much music in his poetry, that it made up for his, in all honesty, terrible reading voice. It was really a treat. Kay Ryan also read some of her short, sharp pieces, although she was a little too explanative for my liking. August Kleinzahler did a short reading also, including a long piece about a short trip to County Cork in Ireland. It was one last chance to see all the AIPF'ers and bid adieu to the Brits, who had become constant companions. Lucy and David Johnson have invited me to come up and read in Bristol when I get back to the UK this fall, as has Agnes Meadows in London. I'm also hoping to get them here to Atlanta. They would go down a storm.

The flight back to Atlanta was uneventful (had a nice conversation with my seatmate Dana about Austin and travel) and had dozens of emails to sort out. Now it's time for unpacking, laundry and sleep. I have a week off before the readings continue. Many thanks to Tanya Keyser for her hospitality and support through this whole week. Her dedication to MetroMania Press and to the book are inspiring and appreciated. Slow To Burn has just begun to sizzle!


jenni said…
Sounds like a remarkable time! And I'm soooo jealous you got to hear AK read! One of my favorite living poets!! Welcome back!
Paula S. said…
Hi Collin,

As one of the poets who participated in the Dead Poets Slam, I concur. Prior to our event's start and during the brief intermission, we were discussing the traditional slam event.

Fortunately, I caught most of the 2nd round on-ward.

Btw - enjoyed your reading at Mitchie's on Saturday!

Happy recovery!

bookfraud said…
you know, when i read your travels of poetry festivals and the like, i can't help but feel jealous. it always sounds like you're really tied into a close-knit community of people sharing the same artistic passion. count yourself lucky, i guess.
Collin said…
Jenni, thanks for the welcome home. You would have enjoyed August. I hope you get to hear him soon.

Paula, thanks so much for the compliment. I did enjoy the reading at Mitchie's...just wish there had been a few more appreciative people like yourself. :)I'll be interested to see what AIPF does with scheduling next year. I'm sure they will hear some of the same complaints/suggestions.

Bookfraud, it is a close-knit community and I've met so many wonderful people, but sometimes it's almost to insulated. What I like about Austin is that the ego is left at the door for the most part...academics and spoken word and slam poets mingle and share and get on. There should be more festivals like Austin around the country.
Anonymous said…
Wow. Logan is gorgeous.

Glad to read you enjoyed yourself.

Mary said…
Great to hear how well it went, Collin! Yes, Ilya is phenomenal, a hypnotic performer as well--had a chance to hear him share his work at a Tupelo Press reading.

See you in May--so looking forward to it!!

Peace and Love,
Mary Chi-
Sonya Renee said…
Hi Colin,
glad you made the slam it was a great time. Just a slight correction. Sonya (also known as me) did win the slam. Chris Michaels scored a 28.7 to my 29.5. Thanks for your support darling!!!! Love ya!!!!!
Collin said…

I stand corrected! I think a lot of folks in the audience were confused about who actually won the slam. The way Mike called out the winners made it seem like you were second and Chris was first. Even Madelyn Hatter said she was confused about who actually won...we all thought it was Chris.

I am THRILLED it was you then, because you were hot all night! Hope to see you again soon!
Anonymous said…
Thank you so much for posting the correction. I didn't want to be obnoxious but I know there was some confusion. Again thank you so much for the kind words. You're awesome!

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