Borderline Best Night of My Life

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So, AWP just happened as of the time of writing (first few days of March). The entire experience was absolutely amazing, and I want to write a recap of the event at large next week, but there was a real highlight to my weekend, which occurred at the venue above.

Smarie Clay, a graduate student in my cohort who also runs the wonderful Black Tongue Review, invited me to read at Chopin Salon #62 – Climb the Black Ladder: An AWP Reading along with some very big names, including George Kalamaras, Chad Sweeney, Adam Clay, Bruce Covey, and Katerina Stoykova-Klemer. I had watched George Kalamaras and Chad Sweeney on stage before, and here I was reading on the same set they were (along with four other graduate students). It was quite an honor.

I had no idea how awesome it would be.

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I had just done my first reading ever earlier in the day as part of an event Columbia put on, on-site, that basically amounted to our reception. I didn’t really get nervous beforehand, but by the time I got up there I realized I was nervous, and the entire thing was a borderline out of body experience. It went fine, I think, and people told me I did well, so hopefully that was the case. For this reading I decided to supplement with a responsible amount of wine beforehand.

I decided to read almost entirely poems I had written over winter break that I had submitted to a contest. Much of what I write is short, and I had five minutes total, so I read four short pieces and two longer pieces (around twenty to thirty lines). This time, instead of being nervous, I was hyper-aware. I heard the reactions of the audience, partly made up of my peers, partly strangers, and felt their attention. When you go to a lot of readings, you know when the audience is really into it versus when they’re restless.

The audience was into it for my reading and they were into it for just about every reading, and to have that combination of strangers, some of them very well-respected, and my peers, and in an environment like we had, was just awesome in the sense of generating awe. It’s tough to put into words beyond what I’ve tried to describe. I introduced myself to George Kalamaras and he told me he enjoyed my work and to keep doing what I was doing. One of the poets, I’m pretty sure it was Sweeney, told me I sounded like a young Dean Young (one of my favorite poets).

I recalled that sentence, that I sounded like a young Dean Young, the next day at the book fair, and I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep or what, but for a minute things got a little dusty in there.