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the episode in which I hug everyone

By Camille Dungy

Since my arrival in NYC on Thursday I have hugged at least 30 great, and new, and new great American writers. And tomorrow I have a few more to add to my list.  I’ve only been in public about 18 hours total, so that adds up to more than two love encounters an hour. I have the scent of America’s poetry scene on my skin, and the words of America’s poets have been whispered in my ears.  I’ve been a lucky lady these past few days.

I’m headed back to the San Francisco Bay area tomorrow, so I’m not suffering the level of mourning I might suffer should I be heading back to some part of the world where I might not find such a plethora of new, and great, and new great American writers to touch.  But plenty of people live in places where they might go several days, weeks even, without the opportunity to meet another poet. This is why I want to add to the list of poets who touched me this weekend those poets whose spines my fingers ran across at the Poets House and Mercer Street Books.  All the poets whose pages, as I fanned through them, I smelled.  Should I do that, the number of poets who touched me this weekend would begin to sound obscene.

New York City.  Live poets and everything.  I relish the opportunity to attend so many readings, to meet new poets, and revisit with poets I have long known and loved.  But as I prepare to leave for the far coast, I think of all the writers who write without physical community. I think of those stars who only learned to recognize their own constellations reflected in the pages of a book. Though I will be the first to admit that sometimes it’s hard to hug a book, this is a kind of opportunity for intimacy, the turning of each new page.

City life, with all it’s hugging and coffee sharing and shaking of hands, can be noisy, can distract one from the real work of poet-ing. Writing is a solitary endeavor.  In the end there is only the poet and the page.  So for all the poets and aspiring poets reading this blog and wishing, as I think many of us have wished, for a chance at more and more and more community, I want to remind you that we need look no further than our bookshelves.

Goodnight, New York.  I have a nice big book I’d like to curl up with now.

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Posted in Uncategorized on Saturday, April 3rd, 2010 by Camille Dungy.