Monday, October 03, 2005

Wow. That's it. Just: "Wow".

Well, don't say I didn't try to tell you. The Warren County Poety Festival was a great success, and kudos to BJ Ward and his team for the effort. There's way too much to tell about, from the workshops to the panel discussions, from Gerald Stern singing Dylan to Adrian Louis ironically lamenting the end of his subversive impact on the world. One thing in particular I wanted to write about here: The impact of meeting Hayden Carruth.

I admit, I knew only a smattering of his work before I saw him on Saturday. But between my first impression of him and my last of the day, my admiration has gone through the roof.

First impression: I was asking the fine poet Joe-Anne McLaughlin to sign my copy of her book JAM when Mr. Carruth happened to walk past, and Ms. McLaughlin used something I just said to introduce me to him - and he graciously stopped, turned, and shared a few minutes with me. OK, he was listening to his wife, but still.

More impressively, as the last reader of the night, Carruth read well past his 30 minute allotment, at one point asking the audience if we'd "had enough" (we hadn't). Not even on-stage maintenance work on the oxygen tank he pushes around slowed him down. I think he read for about an hour; I don't know for sure, because it didn't occur to me to look at my watch. If we hadn't had to be out of the auditorium in time for late-night cleanup, we might still be there.

Maybe it shouldn't, but it amazes me how generous poets of such accomplishment can be. For the time my audiencemates and I were in his presence, it's as if there was nothing more important to him than presenting himself to us - poems, stories, recommended reading...

The great teachers are always teaching. I wish I could learn at the same pace.

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