Thursday, February 10, 2011

What I Bought at the Book Fair

I returned home with a LOT of books from the AWP book fair. If you knew how I'd been trying to clear off my bookshelves during the month of January, you might laugh--or cry. But I decided to support poets and literary journals and smaller presses--those folks in the writing world who need my money more than the established presses and big name authors.

For those of you who disdain Garrison Keillor, let me just say that I bought several books because I had heard of the poet through Keillor's program The Writer's Almanac. If I made a list of the top 10 people who had done the most for poetry in the late 20th and early 21st century, he'd likely be on the list--and yes, I'm a bit biased, because he did choose one of my poems once.

I stopped at the Sixteen Rivers Press table, and I said, "This is probably a long shot, but once Garrison Keillor read one of your authors' poems." Sharon Olson, the woman staffing the table, knew exactly the book: Light, Moving, by Carolyn Miller (go here and here to read poems from the book). She had it. I bought it.

How do I know Sharon Olson's name? Because I bought her book too (The Long Night of Flying). Yes, the presence of a poet at the table was a powerful incentive at several tables. I bought Victoria Brockmeier's book even though she wasn't at the table. The title of the book was just too wonderful. In fact, it gets the award for best book title of all the books that came home with me:

My Maiden Cowboy Names

I could not resist that title. And so I bought the book. And as I was walking away, the book table person called to me, "Wait. Here's the author of the book you just bought!"

I whirled around and gave a squeal, like my favorite rock star had just dropped by. I'm likely wrong about that. Should Bono ever be in my near vicinity, I doubt I'll be able to breathe, much less squeal. Victoria Brockmeier signed my copy of My Maiden Cowboy Names. I made her happy by my enthusiasm, and she made me happy with that book title alone. The poems, too, look wonderful.

Other wonderful book title and author encounter? Martha Silano's The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception. It's fascinating to me, because I follow her blog, and so I had seen her blog posts about the book cover. It's much more beautiful in real life. I told her I'd been following her book's progress on her blog, and then I worried about sounding like some pathetic poetry stalker. She assured me that I did not. I love that book title and cover too. And Martha Silano was lovely in person. And while I talked to her, Kelli Russell Agodon wandered by, and we chatted, and then Deborah Ager of 32 Poems came by, and we all talked for about 2 minutes about the journals we subscribe to and the piles of reading materials that are taking over our houses. I meant to get over to the 32 Poems table to take advantage of their AWP subscription rates, but I waited too long. For a brief second, I reveled in the insider feeling that being around literary lights like Kelli, Martha, and Deborah gave me, but then I forced myself to move along. I was keenly aware that if I stood in front of a table too long, other potential buyers couldn't get close.

I also picked up a copy of Crab Creek Review, the very last one. What a gorgeous cover! What a great section guest edited by Susan Rich.

At the BOA table, I got 3 books that were "distressed." They looked in fine shape to me. Three books (by Dorianne Luax, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Ellen Bass!) for five dollars--best deal of the AWP book fair!

While at that table, I picked up Dan Albergotti's The Boatloads, another poet first introduced to me by Garrison Keillor. How I love Albergotti's poem "Things to do in the Belly of the Whale." I devoured the whole book on Sunday afternoon, and most of the poems are every bit as stunning as the one I first loved.

At The Word Works table, I bought Barbara Louise Unger's Charlotte Bronte, You Ruined My Life, another great title, with poems that will be useful as I write my academic paper on contemporary female poets and their use of fairy tales. I was at that table as the prices on Saturday dropped from $10 to $5, so I bought 2 other books (Immersion, by Michele Wolf, with its gorgeous cover, and Spinoza's Mouse by George Young). I paid $20, because that seemed like a fairer price to me.

I picked up a copy of Maureen Seaton's Venus Examines Her Breast from 2 U of Miami MFA students who told me I just needed to make a donation. It could only be in cash. I had a twenty dollar bill, and I asked if they had a ten. The female student had 8 dollars, and I was happy to pay $12 for the book. But then the male student gave me two ones, and the female gave me the two one dollar coins that she had. I was so flustered by all these small bills and coins that I just took my deal and walked away. I've been a fan of Seaton since I saw her read in 2001, but it's taken me this long to get a copy of Venus Examines Her Breast.

At the CavanKerry table, I bought Nin Andrews' Southern Comfort. I loved her chapbook Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum? I love her blog. I look forward to reading a full-length book.

I got Susan Briante's new book, Utopia Minus, which I didn't even know was out. I loved her book, Pioneers in the Study of Motion, so I bought her new one. Whilst at the Ahsahta table, I picked up Brian Henry's Quarantine. How I admire Ahsahta books. I'd love to see how they'd transform my manuscript into a book.

I took advantage of the every title is $5 waning hours at the Autumn House table. I picked up 2 anthologies, Joyful Noise: An Anthology of American Spiritual Poetry and The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry. I confess that I bought the latter title simply because I know that it retails for $35. It seemed to good a deal to pass up for $5.

So, local friends, if you need a book of poems, I'm fully stocked. And yet, I'm not done. I'm taking advantage of the pre-publication period to pick up Lynn Domina's forthcoming book at a reduced rate. Hurrah!

What a great time to be a poet. The Book Fair reminded me of all the presses, small and largeish which publish poetry. The various panels reminded me of all the ways I can connect with poets that wouldn't have been possible before we all had Internet connections. New technology means that I could publish my own book, if I wanted, although the Book Fair, with all its gorgeous book covers might make me think twice. I'm no graphic designer. But I do have artist friends.

What I don't have is a surplus of time. It's hard for me to imagine doing all the other things a publisher must do, like attending to book orders. I can imagine doing publicity (my book trailer will be appearing in this space soon!), but much of the rest of the duties of being a book publisher seem overwhelming now.

So, I will continue to submit to the traditional venues. I returned home with a $5 off coupon for the Carolina Wren Press contest, so I'll enter that. I'm an AWP member, so I'll enter that contest, with its reduced entry fee for AWP members. By the end of summer, I want to revisit my spirituality manuscript to make sure I've got only the strongest poems in there, and to look at poems I've written since, to see if I should shuffle a bit.

For those of you who are weary of these AWP reports, I apologize and promise to return to regular blogging tomorrow.


Kathleen said...

What a fabulous list of books! And related experiences!

I was introduced to people's disdain for Keillor in some poetry circles with which I intersected, and nearly fell into that awful hole.

Fortunately I read his book 77 Love Sonnets and subscribed to The Writer's Almanac, so I am a fan. He likes good poems. Of all sorts. So I like him.

Sandy Longhorn said...

What a great list! I'll post mine as soon as my box of books shipped UPS arrives.

I didn't buy nearly as many books/journals this year as I have in the past, so I'm jealous of your bounty.

I also think I might just stay in the bookfair one whole day in Chicago! All the running into people is so awesome. Oh, and I met Michele Battiste the same way, by buying her book and then having the staff person at the table say...wait, there she rock star groupie moment!

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