Seattle, WA / Matthew Zapruder

It’s just about midnight. What can I say? I’m finishing up packing, doing a little laundry, trying to catch a few last hours hanging out with Sierra, who’s caravaning along to Spokane to take Catherine Wing back home to Seattle after she reads. To whom am I talking? It’s creepy to write to some indeterminate audience with god knows what sort of expectations for what sorts of things you might find in a blog, late at night, staring out the window at the Space Needle (really), with most of my crap in some luggage and plastic containers and the rest in storage, wondering what’s going to happen starting tomorrow when we take off at 9am.

Probably less and more than I think.

I’m super-beat right now. I gave my first reading from my new book, The Pajamaist, to a very cool crowd at the Bumbershoot Festival, with Erin Belieu, Arthur Sze, and Eileen Myles, all of whom were totally amazing in their own ways. I’m too tired to go into why I liked their readings so much, but I’ll try to get to it tomorrow when I’ve had a little more time to think. I just tried to let the room be, and read my poems in a way that gave them (the poems) some space to be in it (the room). Don’t know if I did it, but it seemed to go ok. I felt vaguely insincere afterwards (always the contrast between the naked face and the social one), but talking to Eileen helped. She pointed out that other performers almost always have a space to be in between the performance and the socializing. Something to think about.

Also, there were a series of readings of poets on the bus, which was parked right in the middle of the festival. People got on the bus, then a poet did, he/she read, then everyone filed off the bus. I heard Katy Lederer read—she was terrific, very cool, and direct and funny and laser smart—but that was it, I was really too nervous before my reading to sit on that bus where I’m going to be for the next seven weeks. It was important for my psyche to be out among thousands of stoned teenagers and other denizens of the indie rock nation stuffing their faces with unnaturally large pieces of corn and strawberry shortcake, in order to ease into a good reading space.

Very relaxing. I heard that the readers were terrific, especially John Marshall and Christine Deavel, and others too.

The bus by the way says POETRY BUS in big red letters on the side. It’s packed with books, camping gear, food, blankets, audio visual equipment, pillows, five typewriters, poets.

Things I’m worried about:

1. feeling like total crap on the road
2. spacing out and making people feel like I don’t care about talking to them when actually I’m just overwhelmed and tired
3. other stuff

Things I’m excited about:

1. getting my mind blown by poets and poetry
2. writing some new poems
3. hanging out with my friends on the bus
4. making new friends

Re: #1: I feel like despite the fact that I read tons of manuscripts, try to follow at least some literary magazines, read a decent amount of contemporary poetry, and run a readings series in NY, that I’m always missing so much about poetry. Like my idea of it is very very narrow, and that I’m always struggling to be strong and aware enough to grow when I hear and read things which don’t fit my limited ideas of what a poem can be. I try to approach poetry—all art—with the idea that discriminating between what’s good and bad is the least interesting prism I can hold up for new things to shine through.

So let’s get going, and see all the poetry, and find out what’s going to happen. I’ll write more on the way to Spokane tomorrow, where we are going to a baseball field to play the ceremonial first whiffle ball game, then to Auntie’s Bookshop, then to a sushi restaurant where there will be more readings. Then to an R.V. park where there will surely be a hilarious late-night tent setting up scenario. More tomorrow.

Originally Published: September 4th, 2006