Funny. I get post-gig depression after a reading, but never do I feel anything but madly energized after the circus of the AWP Conference and Bookfair. Living in the boondocks, I have to make this battery-charge last all year.
From the minute I pull up to the underground loading dock and start to recognize the faces of other vendors, to the final frenzy of box-packing and checkout four days later, I drink in the aura as deeply as I can with every breath, conversation, glance, laugh, and coveted cover art image. So many had good news (my books is out! I’m a finalist! a poem in X journal! an agent! a fresh angle on an old problem!) and so few were there merely to rant or to inveigle. My cup, however insatiable it is the other 11.9 months of the year, ranneth over.
This year at the elevator (poof) I bumped into Judy Halebski, whose chapbook I bought at my very first AWP. I loved it so much that I reviewed it, predicting that it would soon bloom into a full-length collection, and it did, so that the very next year when we ran into each other, she was shining with the good news; Space=Empty was out. Since then, her second book has also been published, Space/Gap/Interval/Distance.
And the reading I had proposed was a joy: Poets Look Back on Their First Books: a 20th Anniversary Celebration of Fred Marchant’s Tipping Point. Audience members commented afterward that the sense of mutual support and community were palpable, the warmth and integrity of the poets (Fred, with Nick Flynn, Laura McCullough, Joan Houlihan, and David Rivard) so invigorating. I felt the same way, and am strengthened for the year of work ahead by the presence of so much goodness there.
Some complain about the pushpushpush of Po-Biz: so much work and so little reward. Objectively, I know what they mean. I am terrible at the self-promotion the world of poetry calls for, and yet I just can’t feel the sour disappointment that poetry’s relative famelessness causes for many. With tireless colleagues like Karren Alenier (my partner in crime at The Word Works) and innovative colleague presses like Lisa Bowden’s Kore (with whom we shared a kick-ass reading), I feel the miracle, instead, of being part of a living, breathing organism that is this strange beast: poetry managing to stay alive, vital, and necessary in the land of malls and cell phones.
No depression here! Only gratitude and a certainty that I’m in the right place at the right time. I hope the rest of you feel the same.