I'd first fallen in love with Kimiko Hahn's poetry in 2002 at the University of Minnesota's Poetry Festival (which meant to be annual, but never got beyond that first year).
Currently, she's working on a collection of poems using the science section of The New York Times (I believe) as her inspiration; she has a series of entomological poems, which, of course, excites me, not only because my dear friend Chris is an entomologist, but because that friendship has led to at least three bug poems of my own, and more in the not-so-distant future.
Her own poetry is crisp, and her last book, The Narrow Road to the Interior was inspired by the zhuihitsu of Sei Shonagon. I suspect I've found something to immerse myself in next, this curiosity, just as soon as I polish up that chapbook manuscript of poems about my grandfather's Alzheimer's.
Gerald Stern asked me if I had a gin and tonic in my bag. I was first in line for my books to be signed, and that's what he said to me, before he asked if my stack was my father's or uncle's collection. No, I demurred. I had probably forgotten my name already, so flustered was I.
His reading was wonderful. He came on stage, already telling the audience Campbell McGrath's introduction was a lie, that he never scolded the men in uniform at some event (before the war in Iraq, there was some kind of gathering of poets and writers and in the same hotel, there was a black tie ball for some sort of armed forces, and there Gerry, as they were all calling him, went off, which I can only imagine), and he tossed his bag onto the floor and pulled out his books and told these wonderful narratives between poems, leaving the audience laughing. His last poem, he muttered, "Where is that fucker?" Gerald Stern! And his poetry is so full of life and verve and celebration and everything that is good about the written word. I can see why my dear friend Eireann seems to love him so.
There were moments during the reading I could feel my heart leap up, I sat on my hands, and forced myself still; I wanted to leap onto the stage and embrace him, embrace the man who could write like that. Oh, and at the end? He kicked his bag across the stage to Miles; there's no way he was bending over to retrieve it, and we all rose to our feet to give a standing ovation.
Anyway, I took many photos, probably too many, but I couldn't seem to stop, and you can see more here, though many are blurry, which is kind of sweet too, and they're blurry because those lights "are too damn bright, can't we do something about this?" and what Gerry Stern wants, he gets from an audience of silly fawners such as ourselves. And maybe you'll meticulously stroll through them as I did, or glance at the thumbnails, or maybe you'll secret them away, or ignore me completely.
But I can say this tonight: it was another magical week at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival.
Lucky life, indeed! I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work with Kimiko Hahn, who not only gave her tough love to specific poems, but also trained our eyes for future poems, I am blessed to have worked in a group of strong poets (how often do you appreciate all of your classmates?), I am bless that I could feel the world fall away as certain poets took the stage (Martin Espada, Anne Marie Macari, Gregory Orr, Kimiko Hahn, and Gerald Stern especially). Oh, and the ocean! I moaned about seeing the ocean back in August, and now I have it, bottled up, I'm bringing it back to set on my windowsill so I can remember the shape of these days.