Reading at River’s End, Oswego, NY

It was thanks to Ira Sukrungruang that I was able to get this reading; he suggested the place to me, and I wrote the Bookstore owner, Bill, and sent links to my work to Mark Mazzoli, the organizer of poetry events, and he really dug it. And they did great pre-event publicity, I think, with nice displays and posters etc.

So the reading in Oswego, NY, at River’s End Bookstore was something I was looking forward to, but I honestly had no idea what to expect. I also wasn’t feeling so great today although I’d had a nice workshop in Rochester with a couple of very talented women poets, one of whom had just finished her MFA and worked with Tim Liu, in fact. I’d been hoping to see one of my best old friends in Rochester, but it just didn’t work out. And there were a bunch of other nonliterary things I was worried about, and these were oppressive, to say the least.

But the drive up from Rochester was gorgeous— grass so luminously green with the late afternoon sun pouring through the mostly clear sky was so beautiful that, for me, it was painfully beautiful to see. The hills were lush, warm, rich with greenery at all levels— really thick grasses, trees coming out—limbs that really extended unlike the stunted trees of the high plains in north Colorado, where trees clench like fists trying desperately to cling to any drop of moisture, where roses in the summer sometimes look like they have been burnt with a torch they are so black, ashen, brittle—exactly like ashes.

When I saw the many thick rivers and many, many fat lakes, I was thrilled. Rivers in north Colorado are so shallow and shriveled they would not even be called creeks in upstate NY. Then when I saw the Great Lake in the distance I practically died—I can’t explain how seeing a big body of water could be so meaningful—you’d have to come from a high desert plain to feel this way.

I was also driving a rental car that I didn’t want—I’d asked for an economy car that would get 35 mpg but they gave them away before I got there, so I was driving a Pontiac Grand Prix, which was very luxurious and very overpowered. The stereo was great though. So I was feeling okay when I pulled into Oswego, which is right on Lake Ontario, and the bookstore really WAS close to the end of the river.

So after locating the bookstore and checking in and getting some food (which was just a café, but the food was incredibly fresh and wonderful). It made me feel great to see a few acquaintances from the poetry world show up. There was a brief open reading with some very good younger poets, including one guy who just had something picked up by Mississippi Review. And I was pretty well psyched by the time I was on, and it went very well. The audience was small (maybe 15 or so) but very warm and very with it. They laughed at all the right spots; I felt very much at home with them right away, and vice versa, apparently. Just one short funny poem from the first book and then highlights from identity papers. Read for just over half hour, took questions, which were very thoughtful, intelligent questions. Afterwards, lots of warm handshakes, enthused thanks, many more genuinely interested questions, and a much better number of book sales than I’d ever expected.

The really fun part, afterward, was hanging around for a little while with Ira Sukrungruang and his very nice wife Katie, and their protege/genius-giant-fellowship winner, Derrick. He also was very nice and funny. Apparently, there was 12′ of snow, which meant that Derrick had shoveled so much snow off rooftops that he didn’t need a ladder to get down anymore—he just stepped off the roofs onto the snowpiles next to the houses. This explained the new barn that I’d seen on the drive up that looked like a giant foot had stomped it flat on one side—it must have been the heavy snow and ice….


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