I took my empty book bag to the writing conference that was here in Seattle recently, and I wandered through the book fair and scooped up free tortilla chips at the receptions and waved at my friends across the crowded aisles, and by the time I came home, that bag was so heavy my shoulder hurt.
It all started at registration, where I tried to look like it meant nothing to me that Joy Harjo was a few people ahead. I chatted with a man named Ken, and later I ran into him, sitting in the Gival Press booth, and then we crossed paths on the sidewalk, and what was there to do the next time I saw him but buy Poetic Voices Without Borders? Guess who’s in it? Joy Harjo.
Richard Blanco (poet of Obama’s second inauguration) made me think of Arline, who loves Miami, so I asked him to sign Looking for the Gulf Motel to her.
Tom Spanbauer, that beautiful genius, has a new book out from Hawthorne Books. I took his “Dangerous Writing” class many years ago. I wish I could go back in time and watch him walk into that kindergarten classroom again. (We all got grown-up chairs, but the bathroom sinks were three feet off the ground.) Hawthorne had I Loved You More at their table.
We were all three degrees of separation by then, and Ruben, it turned out, had organized Queertopia, a reading (12 readers! 120 minutes!) at the Barnes and Noble, which is where Arline and I spent Thursday night. There, I bought Kazim Ali’s Bright Felon, Eduardo C. Corral’s Slow Lightning, and Roxane Gay’s Ayiti. Why those? Because I already had Deborah Miranda’s Bad Indians and Barrie Jean Borich’s Body Geographic. And because, while the authors were signing my books, I could stand really close to them without seeming creepy.
Did I mention lunch with Jennifer Munro, who talked me up to an editor at a really cool press? What kind of writer does that? We’re supposed to be stingy and self-absorbed.
One day – Friday? – I chatted with a professor and graduate student at Ooligan Press. From them I bought Oregon Stories and The Portland Red Guide, by Michael Munk. Next time Arline and I go to Portland, we can check out where radical Marie D. Equi lived in the late 1920s and early 1930s with her lover, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.
I wasn’t the only one exhausted and overstimulated by the last day, but I managed to make it one more time through the book fair, where I picked up an anthology of craft essays and Frank Bidart’s latest, Metaphysical Dog. Many years ago, when Northwest Bookfest was down on the waterfront, I sat on a folding chair in a drafty pier warehouse and listened to Bidart read. Another beautiful genius.
After lunch at Le Pichet, I carted my books home on the bus. And now, dear Reader, I am reading them.