En route, at, and leaving the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD / Catie Rosemurgy

Firing up the bus at 10:54 am and getting ready to address the cadets of the Naval Academy. It’s fun to listen to people consider how to play to this particular crowd.

Last night ended beautifully at the Zapruder family river house. Perhaps the greatest moment of the dying day came as we all watched with baited breath as Bill, the driver, like the true magician he is, eased all the bus’ giantness into the tiny country space of the driveway. As the lesser among us (me) assumed we were stuck forever in a bus pinned in by trees (it seemed like a peaceful enough life), he announced triumphantly, “This driveway is my bitch!” Everyone loved it. It was 4 am and we were in the best of hands.

So the night ended with everybody getting a real bed, or a futon or an air mattress, and today everyone is rested and feisty again. Ready to get some poetry done!!! The house itself was airy and lovely, and the river view was idyllic, slow-moving and shadowed. Folks saw lots of weird fish and sweet birds throughout the morning.

We are again negotiating that same driveway, with Zapruder helping Bill avoid crushing the family boat. Everyone is nibbling and typing and comfortable. Life on the bus is good.

Later that same day…

We are headed out of Annapolis now and on its outskirts it has started to look like Anywhere, USA. Not so in the heart of town, which takes the term “idyllic” to a whole new level. Also not so on the grounds of the Naval Academy, which looks like you think an incredibly impressive and formidable Naval Academy would look. The whole scene was lovely and sun-struck and even the air felt deeply conservative, though I’m sure all sorts of interesting fault lines run through what comes off as such a solid smooth surface.

One important note: I am not at all up on my military designations and it turns out we did not read to cadets as I wrote earlier, but to midshipmen.
Two young women told me that: we’re midshipmen. Of course you are! They were amazing young people, but I am getting way ahead of myself.

First of all, everyone on the Bus gave an especially great reading.
Everything Matthew Zapruder, Josh Beckman, Dorothea Lasky, and Peter Gizzi read rang with a strange and terrible significance given who they were and where they were and who they were reading to. It was chilling and exciting to hear how the poems took on such sharp edges and added implications and misgivings and questions.

And the midshipmen and their teachers were a great audience, fairly quiet but attentive and thoughtful. The Q & A afterward turned into a really warm, spontaneous conversation between these two incredibly different groups of people. One midshipman asked if being on the bus had changed how we felt about poetry, and Matthew Zapruder answered that beautiful question so beautifully. He said that people often think poems are written from a place of knowing and are read to an audience from that same resolved place. Then he gave a really accurate and honest description of the kind of uncertainty and possibility writing poetry opens up and how being on the Bus has accelerated that process of wondering and changing and not knowing and growing.

The only regret I have about what turned out to be a really great exchange is that I would have loved to hear the bright, incredibly self-possessed young people in the audience respond in kind with their own words and theories and rhythms. Travis Nichols did the next best thing, though, and invited all of them to send their poems to the Bus Web site.

The reading culminated with an amazing half-sung performance by Kenward Elmslie of his dark, witty, winking piece Girl Machine.

And it’s only 3:30!!!!!

Originally Published: October 3rd, 2006