The past few days have been absolutely action-packed. I wish I could just link this blog to my brain so I could take down all the details.
On Thursday I headed over to the CUNY Graduate Center to attend a lecture with a few of the heads of small chapbook presses. Brenda Iijima was there! She recognized me. I was so flattered. It’s crazy how small the writing world really is. Each of the printmakers (four in total) brought a few samples of their work. Brenda’s really intrigued me, because there was such a broad range of aesthetics. I think, if I had a press, that might be how my books would turn out…that should be one of the benefits of the chapbook, its evasion of the rules and the freedom to match form to function (or to clash form with functionthe point is that you get to make that choice).
Here are a few of the points Brenda made that I thought were especially important to note:
-The chapbook is contained, embodied, unpretentious
-It’s important to your own writing to champion the work of others in order to form community
-direct quote that I love: “you can flex different parts of your identity in your poetry, it accepts all modes of your being.”
-SELF PUBLISH, SELF PUBLISH, SELF PUBLISH. “If there are nay-sayers, they should step back and think about what they’re up to.”
-“One body of work could manifest itself in any number of ways.”
- “Everyone will have their own style. Act with your own integrity, your ‘range of beauty.’”
-“It’s so meaningful to work with someone who’s getting their work out there for the first time.”
Following the seminar was a reading of the four winners of the Chapbook fellowship given by the Poetry Society of America. The winners were:
Adam Day, for Badger, Apocrypha, selected by James Tate
Andrew Seguin, for Black Anecdote, selected by Rosanna Warren
Hossanah Asuncion, for Fragments of Loss, selected by Kimiko Hahn
Camille Rankin, for Slow Dance with Trip Wire, selected by Corneluis Eady
Hands down, this was the best reading I’ve been to so far in New York City. Each of the winners read from their book, in addition to the established poets who were responsible for their selection. I studied Kimiko Hahn in Intermediate Poetry and James Tate in Contemporary Poetry, so we’re talking some pretty big names, here. I especially loved Hossanah Asuncion’s poetry, maybe because I related to it more than the others. I bought all the books in a set, and would recommend them to anyone interested in the up-and-comers of the poetry world (I think they were just recently made available online). Some of the highlights of the reading:
-a quote by Cornelius Eady: “Every one of us has asked the question ‘can I be a poet?’ And, to each of us, someone said ‘yes.’”
-another quote by Cornelius Eady: “This sort of language is going to become rarer, and more important.”
-the final reader, Andrew Seguin: “I’m actually not used to flipping through a book to read my own poems.” That seemed like a really important moment to me.
-After the poets were done reading, Lydia capped off the night by saying the words “taste good in your ears.” Love it.
On Friday, I headed back to the CUNY Graduate Center to spend some more time at the book fair of the chapbook festival. I stumbled upon The Lost Notebooks of Juan Sweeney de las Minas de Cobre, “translated” by Chad Sweeney (it’s actually just a persona he made up). I was so excited! The second I saw it I said, “hey! This is one of my professors for the next semester!” The guy who owned the press chatted with me about it for a little bit, then handed me a packet of stapled papers and said “tell Chad you bought his chapbook from Nate Pritts, and that you read mine and liked it better.” Gigantic score. Buying a chapbook seems extra special to me, because there aren’t many printed, and they’re not available en mass like normal books.
On Friday night, Brittany and I went to Daisy May’s Barbecue, a place I’d read about as a result of the article on red velvet cupcakes in The New York Times. DAMN, that was a lot of food. A lot of very, very good food. The place has won multiple #1 zagat ratings as the best barbeque place in NYC. I was definitely surprised by how small and informal it was…it’s very true to the barbeque experience. You order at the front and they dish everything out and put it on a tray like you’re at a picnic. They have a small seating area with long wooden tables where you can sit down to eat. The food was amazing, particularly the macaroni and cheese. And, of course, I had to order a red velvet cupcake! It was gigantic and the cream cheese frosting was cold and delicious. I want more. Right now.
Saturday was crazy and beautiful and perfect and exhausting. In the morning, I went to a printing workshop at the Book Arts Center as part of the chapbook festival. I learned how to set type and print it on an old printing press. I printed the title of my chapbook (Red Velvet), and also printed a smaller line from the end of one of my poems (You do not decide what I make. I am the small fault tremor that starts the earthquake). It really is a beautiful process—I loved the way my hands looked covered in ink, and all the tiny letters set in a row. But I can’t even imagine making a whole book that way, let alone a bunch of copies of one!
I then hurried off to see “What the Chapbook Means to Me,” an event with Jen Bervin and Anna Moschovakis, at Poets House–the final leg of the chapbook festival. They showed pieces from their beautiful chapbook collections. A few things I wrote down:
-It’s possible to come out with a chapbook before a book that comes out that includes the same poems
-It can be like a “gift exchange” in a community of writers. Anna Moschovakis is part of a group called the Dusie Collective, which is a group of fifty writers who agree to make fifty copies of a chapbook and send them to everyone else in the group.
-They allow a more personal connection between reader and writer.
-Their extreme portability is a plus.
-There isn’t much lag, like with a full-length book. Poets can get their work out there almost immediately, to let people know what they’re currently interested in.
-Often, a chapbook will be published for a specific reading, and you can go home with recent work from that writer.
They were gracious enough to let all of us event-goers come to the front of the room and paw through their tables of chapbooks. One of my favorites was an entire literary journal that’s published inside a matchbook! I loved it. It really helped me to see how broad the definition of a chapbook is. I’m feeling a lot more relaxed about the book I’m making, like I don’t need to force a poem or page number for it to count. That’s a freeing realization to have.
After the event, I scurried on over to pier 94 and pier 92 for The Armory Show, a gigantic, international art show that happens annually. I moved through both the contemporary section (pier 94) and the modern section (pier 92), and was surprised to find that I actually liked the contemporary stuff better. It was cool to be able to see work by Picasso and Miró and Botero at pier 92, but I was more engaged with the contemporary art. I think the crowds agreed with me, considering the contemporary wing was absolutely exploding with people. Some of my favorites: a gigantic sculpture with an interesting texture created by scalloped strips of paper, a collage of framed and matted author’s notes, a typewriter that appeared to be writing with light (thanks to a projector), and anything that involved big globs of paint. I was also struck by how many of the pieces involved words or books. My seminar group (visual arts/writing) went on Sunday, but I’m glad I was able to go alone. I was able to kind of pass through the art and take from it what I wanted at a leisurely pace. The people watching was unrivaled. Here’s what I wrote down in my notebook:
-Does it have to be huge to be valid? Hawthorne, “The Artist of the Beautiful”
-So many different languages
-I feel like I need to open my eyes wider
-“…sexy tight leather, you know? And when she takes it all off you don’t want to see the flab and all that.” Some man was actually saying this to someone on the phone. Very loudly.
-Remember when I learned how to draw castles in perspective in elementary school, and for a while that’s all I would draw?
-I’ve learned everything I know about navigating traffic from horses
-Everyone is running into each other because they’re looking everywhere except where they’re going
-“That would look good in our backyard.” –little old ladies, in reference to a piece that would probably go for 50,000+ dollars.
So, we’ve arrived at today (Sunday). Katie (my friend from home) came in via New Jersey transit this morning to accompany me to the Rangers game in Madison Square Garden! After I finished getting ready, we grabbed bagels at Brooklyn Bagels and headed on over to make our way to MSG. Our seats actually turned out to be amazing! We were behind the Ranger’s goal, and pretty close to the action. I had almost forgotten how much I love hockey, and the excitement of going to big-time sports games. Hockey has the best music, too. I kept telling Katie I wished they sold a soundtrack. The Rangers played the Philadelphia Flyers, who I (half) pretended to hate, because I was totally embracing my inner-New Yorker. These fans are diehard, so it was a lot to keep up with. The game ended up being an absolute slaughter—the Rangers won 7-0. It felt strangely symbolic (New York City beating the shit out of Philadelphia…if you know me you should understand). I was really getting into it—jumping up when they scored, chanting along, and high-fiving the people in front of me. I loved the energy of it, the intensity. If I go to grad school in New York City I am DEFINITELY getting season tickets. There’s no question.