The Tallahassee Report
I'm already back in Atlanta after my one night stand at Tallahassee Pridefest, but oh what a night it was! Atlanta could learn a few things from Tally. They are doing a week of events, with something happening every evening until the big party/concert this weekend. What Atlanta Pride needs is a devoted evening or stage for literary events at some point during its festivities. But that's another post for another day.
I drove down to Tally and made it in about four and half hours. I brought along some CDs to listen to -- Duffy, The Pretenders, Everything but the Girl, Sade and Dusty Springfield. Odd choices, but exactly what I was in the mood for during the drive. I checked into the hotel the organizers had booked for me, got my poems together and took a nap. At 5 p.m., the fabulous organizer of the reading, Evan Peterson, picked me up and we went to meet Pridefest organizer Patrick Patterson, poet Cynie Cory (pictured at above) and fiction writer Brandy T. Wilson (below) for dinner at a restaurant near downtown called Little Italy. Cynie is, as I expected, a pistol. She's funny, opinionated, out and proud. We had a good dinner and lively conversation, not to mention the hilarious waitress who verbally sparred with Cynie over menu items.
After dinner we headed over to the venue, The Warehouse. It was a combination bar, pool hall and event space where they have regular readings and open mics. We started with a Q&A with the three of us fielding questions from the audience. There were only a few people in attendance for this, but the discussion was lively. I discovered that Cynie and I both like to nab song titles to use as our own for poems. We all talked about keeping notebooks to write down ideas and who inspired our work. Cynie made an interesting comment about how she doesn't get "ideas" for poems, but just snatches of words and maybe a line or two to begin writing. I'd never heard it framed like this, but I agree with her. I don't think I've had an "idea" for a poem. Fiction, yes, but not poetry.
After a short break, we did the readings, and by this time the room was packed! Standing room only. Brandy opened by reading part of an essay on genderfuck (literally "to fuck with or play with ideas of traditional notions of gender identity" -- thank you Wikipedia!) that's coming out any second now in Ninth Letter. The essay was about Brandy's involvement with a drag king and her confusion over falling for a girl that looked more like a guy. It's an honest piece and sure to ignite some debate when it's published.
Cynie went on next and read mostly from her great book, American Girl. She has great stage presence and the audience -- many from FSU, where she's on faculty -- was digging her. Her poems are, mostly, short and sharp. Every word is essential. Read more of her work here. She closed with some new political pieces. I love her!
After a short break, I did my set. Anyone who reads the blog regularly knows that I've done readings that have just stalled. I'm not feeling it, the audience isn't responding, etc. These don't happen often, but they crop up from time to time so I always have that momentary panic when I begin to read that it's just going to fall apart. I'm happy to report this was one of the best readings I've given in ages and the audience was superb. I dug back into Better To Travel, read a few from Slow To Burn and then closed with a set of poems from After the Poison. Afterwards, there was a gaggle of folks lined up for me to sign books (which the wonderful Word Traffic Books had shipped in!). Although I've signed hundreds of books at this point, it's still weird that people want an autograph. I never know quiet what to say and my penmanship continues to deteriorate.
Many, many thanks to all those who listened, purchased books and supported Tallahassee Pridefest in general. Tally might not be a huge city, but they know how to put on a good literary event and make the visiting writers feel like celebrities. Once again, big shout out to Evan, to Josephine, who recommended me to Evan in the first place after seeing me perform at Java Monkey Speaks, and Denise, who came to watch the show, cracked me up and gave me an Iron Man action figure. It's my new good luck charm.
This morning before I left, I went by to check out Word Traffic Books and the owner, Van, had me sign some copies of Better To Travel and Slow To Burn. So, if you were at the reading last night and didn't get a copy of the books, stop by the store on E. Lafayette St. and support this great indie shop.
There was a photographer at the event, so maybe I'll have a few photos to share soon.