Sunday, May 21, 2006


Book Expo, the Capitalism Report

The actual convention site at Book Expo was much as anticipated: Huge, corporate booths in the center, university presses with more modest displays as you moved toward either end, and then, out on the far edges, the very small presses in exile, as Richard Peabody of Paycock Press described it (finding himself there). The huge displays by HarperCollins, Farrar Strauss & Giroux and the other megapresses featured ridiculous amounts of swag, giveaways often with gimmicky tie-ins to their books. I picked up cardboard binoculars with "Look out for unfortunate events" written on them, advertising the Lemony Snickett books (my son Ben's current favorites). I spotted Tracy Ullman signing her new knitting book. I saw lots of white guys and gals in power suits looking intimidating. I was reminded of what a big business so much of publishing is.

The university presses and small presses had some of their poetry books on display, but the few big houses that publish poetry didn't even bother to bring their titles. I talked with a guy at Norton about it and he condescended that they have wonderful editors who bring in great poets, but they don't bring the poetry to trade shows. OK, bye, end of conversation.

What I did see: Graywolf has Tess Gallagher's first book in a long time, Dear Ghosts, which looks marvelous. The Portal Press had just launched in DC with some wonderful looking novels. West Virginia University Press was displaying Vivid Companion, a collection of poems by Irene McKinney, a former poet laureate of WV. Looking forward to reading it! And LSU Press had info about how to help rebuild New Orleans Public Libraries, still devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The libraries are now more in need of financial support than of books, so if you can give, please click here to do so. I'm hoping DC Poets Against the War will hold a one-year commemoration fundraiser to support the libraries in September. Let me know if you want to help out and stay tuned for details.

Other activities this week: I had to miss the coffee klatsch that I normally host for folks who work at home on Thursday in order to have my teeth cleaned and consult with my dentist about my TMJ problem. Dan Vera graciously hosted and wrote me this about the afternoon: "One woman from Latvia studying at Georgetown [came]. Great conversation about China/Russia that went into feminist biblical critique and then cosmology. Wonderful mind stretching stuff." Sounds even a little beetter than a teeth-cleaning!

Great reading of place poems at Busboys & Poets today. Even in the gorgeous sunshine at 4 pm, we had a full room. I am continually impressed with the talent here in D.C. Reading today were Deborah Ager, Louise Beach, Jody Bolz, Grace Cavalieri, Rose Solari, Jeneva Stone, Josh Weiner, and myself. (Sadly Naomi Ayala wasn't feeling well and had to pass.) We traveled from Florida to West Virginia to Vermont and back to D.C., with Josh finishing the afternoon with a little-league-on-the-White-House-lawn poem, a great new genre I hope to see more of.

I'm headed to Port Townsend, WA, tomorrow morning for a board meeting of the national organization Poets Against War. I'll be staying in a little studio in the woods 1,000 feet from the house Sam Hamill built for himself 30 years ago. So I don't know how much access to the Internet I'll have. I'll try to write from the left coast, but if not, look for a report back at the end of the week. Enjoy the spring weather!

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