POETRY AT TECH REPORT: I usually don't get nervous before readings...not anymore. However, yesterday's reading for Poetry at Tech had me shaking in my shoes a bit. Being selected by Thomas Lux to read is an honor in itself, but following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Lucille Clifton, Tony Hoagland and Dorianne Laux (among others) made me realize that I couldn't go in and half-ass this. I agonized over what I was going to read, the order, what I was going to wear, whether to get my hair cut.
I arrived at 4 p.m. and met Jon Goode in the parking garage. We walked over to the Clary Theatre together on the Georgia Tech campus and ran into Kodac Harrison. Once inside, Lisa Allender was already there waiting, followed by Rupert Fike. I instantly felt more relaxed with these familiar faces. Tom Lux came in and said we each had 20 minutes and we would be going in alphabetical order, meaning I read last. No pressure then. I had received numerous emails throughout the week from folks who said they couldn't make it, mainly because of the time. The late afternoon readings (it starts at 4:30 p.m.) are sometimes a mixed bag, but the thought process is that more students will show up if they are already on campus. We did have a good showing from students, but the audience looked sparse.
Katie Chaple went first and although I've heard her read many times, she was really "on" for this reading. It was amazing. Her poem about Nancy Drew's secret life ("someone who knows how to slip out of handcuffs must have more than a passing interest in bondage") rocks my world. Jon Goode was up next and he blazed through his "greatest hits" including "Barbara," a loving tribute to his stern mother and growing up in the late 70s and 80s when Connect 4 and Speak and Spell were the hot toys and you never backtalked your parents. He's a tough act to follow. I had been sitting on the front row for easy access to the stage, and when I got to the podium, I realized the theatre had slowly filled up. Gulp.
I started off with "Short Time" and "The Gallows Coat" from Better To Travel and then moved into work from Slow To Burn including "The Virgin Mary Appears In A Highway Underpass" and "Wonder Woman." I read a few new ones from Wake and "Human Trafficking," which appeared earlier this year in In Posse Review (Tom Lux told me later that was his favorite from my set). My mouth was dry as an ocean and I was sipping water like it was going out of style. I managed to get through "Spring Hill" (about my Uncle Terry's death from AIDS and also in In Posse Review) without getting emotional, although I couldn't look at the room while reading it, especially Lisa who was also a friend of Terry. I finished up with "Why I Want To Be Pam Grier." That one is always a crowd-pleaser and the one that always gets a hoot or two.
I sold a few books, so here's the official count: There are 11 copies of Slow To Burn left. Count 'em...eleven. For the holidays, I'm offering a special to you blog readers who might not have purchased a copy. You can buy a copy for $5 plus $1.50 postage. That's only $6.50 for a limited-edition, signed chapbook. Send me an email if you're interested.
After the reading, Tom treated a group of us to dinner at a great Cuban restaurant in Midtown called Las Palmeras. I had the picadillo with black beans and rice. Tasty. Then we headed over to Tom's for cocktails and chatting. I didn't get home until almost 10, but it was a great evening. I'm taking the holidays off, but I'm already starting to book readings for 2008. Until I know the fate of Wake, I probably won't be doing as many readings, but there are several things coming up, including another reading for the Crux anthology. More on this soon and keep an eye on the blog sidebar.
Finally, I lost the Macbook on ebay. The bid went up to $900, which is just crazy. You can buy a brand new one at the Apple Store for $1,099. My limit was $850 and it was surpassed at some point this afternoon. Ah, well... My new washing machine was delivered today. It's nice and shiny and I could care less. The best thing about the machine was this bizarre note in the instruction guide:
Before discarding a washer, remove the lid to prevent children from hiding inside.
That's my next poem.
Update: Read Lisa Allender's lovely recap of the Poetry at Tech reading at her blog.