We left town early yesterday to attend the last day of the 13th Annual West Chester University Poetry Conference. Actually, we didn't "attend" much - mostly we just hung around and met people in person that we've known in print for years. It was great to finally put faces to names - Michael Cantor, David Landrum, Toni Clark, Greg Dowling, Bruce McBirney, and Wendy Sloan from Eratosphere, and Robin Kemp and Marilyn Taylor from Formalista. There were a few others attending that I really wish I had been able to locate but time was short and the few hours we had there flew by and the day was over long before I was ready for it to end.
We hung around long past prudent leaving-time in order to hear Alicia Stallings, Dick Davis and H. L. Hix give readings and I'm really glad we did so.
They were, all three, wonderful. Dick Davis read several very funny and well-written poems loosely centered on random events at last year's conference which kept the audience in stitches throughout. Alicia read from Hapax as well as from her newest collection and gave us a long poem on the Plague from a translation she's been working on for over a decade. H. L. Hix read several poems which were fashioned solely from phrases taken from Bush speechs and one framed around words spoken by Saddam Hussein. He also did a most moving rendition of Shield of Achilles by W. H. Auden. Unfortunately we had to leave at that point and missed the readings by Molly Peacock and X. J. Kennedy.
It struck me while I was there that I was surrounded by the rarest of all poetic breeds - poets and artists who lived and breathed in form and meter and rhyme. I was talking to them, I was eating brats and drinking beer with them, I was listening to them read. For one brief and shining moment I was not a freak, I was not alone, I was not uncomfortable, I was not "different," I was not out of place. I was just like everyone else - albeit not nearly as talented.
Next year - as God is my witness - next year, by hook or by crook, by scholarship or by cash, we will attend the entire event.
I'm fired up.