California Dreaming: A report back from the Los Angeles Times Book Festival (3)
Los Angeles is a tough city for a poet. Even a cab driver, who admitted he wrote screenplays during the day, almost swerved off the freeway upon hearing that there was a book prize for poetry. I thought nothing of it at first, but after my feature reading at the Book Festival, the crowd was hostile (even Ed heckled me!): watch a video of the audience here.
After the booing died down, Ed & I strolled over to the booth of Small World Books for our joint signing. Met many nice folks, including fellow Tinfish author Naomi Long. After the signing, I bid adieu to Ed and his lovely family and headed back to the author green room to catch the shuttle to the Marriot. And then something unexpected happened...
a voice: "I really enjoyed your posts for the Poetry Foundation Harriet Blog." Who said this to me out of the blue? None other than Joelle Biele, poet and editor of Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker (reviewed in the NYT here). So we chatted, and I got to learn a bit about the origins of her Bishop book. And then I admitted to Joelle that I felt totally snubbed be the Poetry Foundation this year because they didn't invite me to blog for Harriet for National Poetry Month--even after all the time and energy I put into my Harriet posts last year. "Maybe next year," Joelle kindly soothed. A pic of Joelle & I:
After a refreshing shower at the Marriot, it was off to Chinatown for an off-site reading with Brent Cunningham and Brandy Nalani McDougall for the Poetic Research Bureau at The Public School:
I really loved the venue because it was so intimate. There was a good crowd, some students from a Los Angeles Community College, some from CalArts, some from Otis School of Art & Design, and several local poets. Brent read a chapter of his fooooorrrrrthcoooommiinngg novel, and Brandy & I did a duet performance. The audience loved us: video proof here.
Shout outs to organizers Ara Shirinyan and Andrew Maxwell and to Jen Hofer, Rob Ray, Tisa Bryant, Tetra Balestri, and JP.
The next day, I had the pleasure of having breakfast with Chamorro poet, scholar, and UCLA professor Keith Camacho. I love Keith's passion and energy as he's been an important mentor to me over the years. Though I should've taken notes during breakfast because he gave me so much useful advice to follow during my first years as a new professor.
After breakfast, it was back to the bookfair to meet up the amazing poet Matthew Shenoda! Had the pleasure of meeting his lovely wife and child and chatting for a bit (though I could talk with Matthew for hours cuz he's such an interesting and diverse poet, scholar, and trouble maker). The fam:
Then we all headed over to the poetry stage to hear the performance of Douglas Kearney! This was my first time hearing Douglas read, and let's just say I will never forget it. Let's say that the audience for miles around will never forget it! After his reading, he signed my copies of Fear, Some and The Black Automaton. Was a pleasure to hear him read from The Black Automaton because I'm teaching his book in my Fall class "International Poetry and the Visual Arts." Douglas reading:
Then it was back to the poetry stage to hear Matthew read from his fantastic book Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone. This was also the first time I heard him read, and while Douglas' reading seemed to push outwards for miles, Matthew's reading pulled inward with his deep bass and chant-like rhythms.
Think about this: Matthew Shenoda, Douglas Kearney, Tisa Bryant, and Jen Hofer all teach at CalArts. Damn.
After the reading, I walked backed to the shuttle, rode back to the Marriot, back to LAX, back to Honolulu Sunday night. I may never be nominated for a major poetry award again, so I am grateful for this unforgettable experience. Thanks to the Los Angeles Times, the judges, the fellow finalists, my publisher (Ken & Rusty & the crew), Brandy Nalani McDougall, my family, everyone who came out to the festival to say hello and hang out, and, of course, to all you beautiful readers who continue to support my work. xoxo.