GEORGIA AUTHOR OF THE YEAR AWARDS: The 43rd annual GAYAs (given by the Georgia Writers Association) were held last night at Kennesaw State University and I brought one home! Kodac Harrison and I were each given a special award, the Taran Memorial Award, for co-editing the Java Monkey Speaks Anthology and individual excellence in poetry. We were both honored to be recognized in this way. Working with Poetry Atlanta and Kodac have been highlights of my life as a writer. The anthology, the events we plan and host usually come with little thanks and no money. We do it because we love it. So it's nice to get a little love back from the literary community.
During the presentation of the awards, I was asked to read Patricia Smith's Pushcart Prize-winning poem from the anthology. "The Way Pilots Walk" is sharp, funny and contains profanity, but since this was an adult audience I thought they could handle it. When I got to that last line -- about how pilots strut down the concourse and say, "Fuck you. I've got the air." -- I saw a couple of disapproving faces. So, while we were having our photos taken after the ceremony, I noticed this old guy hovering on the edge of the crowd. He was wearing a western shirt and bolo tie and when he finally saw an opening, he marched up to me and launched into this harangue about me using the word "fuck." He seemed to think the poem was my own (I wish!) and I politely told him the poem was written by another award-winning and respected poet. He didn't want to hear it. "Some words don't need to exist, and they don't need to be heard," he said. I reminded him it was an artist's freedom of expression and he said, "that ain't art." He went on for about five minutes, trying to get a rise out of me, but I kept a smile on my face and kicked him in the nuts. Okay, I didn't, but the thought crossed my mind. People really are crazy, but it was worth a good laugh all the way home. He probably would have had a stroke if I'd read one of my poems.
As I predicted Jim Elledge won the poetry award for his wonderful book, The History of My Tattoo. Jim was not at the ceremony, but the person who accepted for him said he was conducting a workshop in Puerto Rico. Atlanta poetry royalty Memye Curtis Tucker received the lifetime achievement award. She's still feisty and her achievements and work for the community continue. She's starting up her next poetry workshop at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center this month.
Although Slow To Burn didn't win it was exciting to be in the same company as Jim and Alice Friman, not to mention other names like Melissa Faye Green and Jimmy Carter as nominees for the GAYAs. No pictures yet, but I hope someone will send me a few to post soon.