Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Seeing Denise Duhamel at the Molly Peacock Reading

One of the coolest things about the Molly Peacock reading was seeing all the poets there. I'm lucky to live in an area that has lots of poets who are writing work that I love, even if they're not all well known.

Just as the reading was about to start, Denise Duhamel walked in. I thought, this must be what it's like to live in New York City, where one might be likely to see famous poets at a poetry reading.

It was doubly strange for me, because I had just spent the morning Googling any number of word combinations that might give me insight into her writing process that she took with her collaborator Sandy McIntosh in their new chapbook 237 More Reasons to Have Sex. I didn't find much out there, and then to have her come to a reading--well, it was just too good to resist. I knew I had to ask her the questions that my Googling failed to answer.

I worried that I might seem like some kind of odd stalker. I worried that it might be weird or rude to approach one poet at the reading of another poet. As always, my inner awkward high schooler comes out ("My hair doesn't look good today, I can't talk to her, she's cooler than me, what if she snubs me, what if I say the wrong thing, what if I really am destined to always be this geeky person, what if it's a phase I'm not going to grow out of"). Luckily, I've gotten better at just ramping up my courage, ignoring my inner critics, and approaching people.

Denise Duhamel couldn't have been nicer. We talked about her chapbook and the fact that Entertainment Weekly just gave her book Ka-Ching a very nice microreview (go here to see it). Once I took a workshop on collaborative writing with her at the Florida Center for the Book, and she asked how my writing was going. She complimented my bracelet.

I see her periodically, and I'm always impressed with how enthusiastic she is, how cheerful and generous with her time. I know some people who have studied with her at Florida International University, and no one has a mean thing to say about her. It must be exhausting to be so instantly recognizable, and yet if she ever feels hounded or wishes for anonymity, she gives no outwardly sign.

If I should ever achieve a modicum of Poetry Fame, I hope that I can exhibit a similar graciousness. But why wait for Poetry Fame? The world would be a much better place if we all worked towards a gracious, generous spirit now.


January said...

Denise is very nice. She was kind enough to blurb my first book coming out this year. Many established poets shy away from blurbing but not Denise. Lucky you to have her for a workshop.

It's nice to live in a area that has such a rich literary life. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Kristin said...

I feel the same way reading about your Boston and NYC experiences; I hope the economic downturn doesn't have too huge an impact on the poetry reading scene!