I fully intended to write separate blog posts for stops 7 and 8 on the book tour, and really, both deserve more than one blog post each. I suppose it speaks to the excitement to the Gathering of Poets in Winston-Salem yesterday that I didn’t have an ounce of energy left to spare for a blog after the day-long conference was done.
First of all, as a West-Coast person who’d never been to The South before and had a number of preconceived notions about what North Carolina might be like, I have to issue a blanket statement: I was wrong! I imagined, I’m sorry to say, a bleak landscape with shanty-like buildings along fast-food lined roads and people who might look at a liberal chick from the Pacific Northwest with suspicion. But North Carolina was truly gorgeous, and at every opportunity, people embraced me with such graciousness that I felt truly at home. The South has it going on, friends.
Speaking of immense graciousness, Kevin Watson, the editor of the impressive and ambitious Press 53, is officially the nicest man in publishing. Not only does he have a wonderful editorial eye, and not only has he published some of my favorite poetry and fiction collections of late, but he’s also genuinely interested in developing a vibrant literary landscape through positive, community-building approaches. The Gathering of Poets conference, where I was delighted to teach and read yesterday, is one such approach. The Gathering brings together serious poets from across the region for an intensive (and intense!) day of workshops, fabulous food, books, and a final faculty reading. I was pleaded and impressed by the quality and seriousness of the writers in my workshops on publishing in literary journals, and I hope I was able to provide those writers with the tools and inspiration to submit poems, to risk rejection, and to contribute to the literary ecosystem.
Personally, I was moved by two later-career poets I chatted with after the workshop–each had feared that she wouldn’t be taken seriously in the journal landscape, one because she was a lesbian writer, and the other because she had spent her career as a nurse, not as an academic. I was saddened to hear that they’d felt their words would not be heard in the literary world, and I hope I managed to convince them otherwise. I believe that there is room for everyone in poetry’s tent, and I have a feeling we may be reading some smart, well crafted poems from both of those writers in journals soon. Read the rest of this entry »