My birthday was in April, but I got to enjoy the last of my gifts this past weekend. My gift from Jon this year was a trip to Poetry at Round Top, spending three days in rural Texas with people who are in love with poetry.
I left work on Friday afternoon, and thankfully, it was a beautiful afternoon. I drove with the top down on my car, while playing All Hail West Texas on repeat. (Yes, I was actually traveling east, but I still find it essential listening whenever I’m spending a considerable amount of time on 290, no matter what direction.) I arrived with some time to spare before the evening readings, so I took half an hour to wander around the campus and take pictures.
When I walked into the concert hall for the readings, I was blown away by the presence of Pattiann Rogers and Ed Madden, who were featured that night. From that point on, I spent the weekend constantly in awe of the amazing writers attending the festival with me. And because nothing inspires me more than attending readings, I was drafting new pieces whenever I got a spare moment. As soon as the Friday night readings let out, I dashed to my room and jotted down a rough draft before heading out to the late night Round Top Scholars reading. The whole weekend cycled between listening and writing; it was non-stop creativity.
All of the readings were amazing. All of the presentations were enlightening. It’s hard to pick a favorite moment. Cyrus Cassells’s reading brought me to tears. Reginald Gibbons gave me a lot to think about during the poet-to-poet interview. Naomi Shihab Nye stole the show with the amazing musical accompaniment to her piece. There wasn’t a moment where I wasn’t being inspired.
One of my favorite moments was crossing paths with Joseph Campana, who taught in the English department at Kenyon College when I was a student there (he’s now at Rice University in Houston). I never had a class with him, but being a small school, Kenyon students and faculty had plenty of occasions to interact outside of the classroom, and we remembered each other. His new collection, Natural Selections, is based on his experiences in Gambier, and as I flip through it, I’m filled with memories.
On Sunday morning, Walt Whitman interpreter Bruce Noll hosted the Remembrance & Celebration for writers who have died in the last year. It was very moving for all involved to come together as a community to share our love for those of us who have passed on.
When the Sunday open mic ended in the early afternoon, I was loathe to leave. I’d made new friends (both from Austin and other cities), I was brimming with new ideas and constantly drafting lines in my notebook and in my brain, and didn’t want to leave such a beautiful place with so many wonderful people. But I have photographs, new books, new poems, and new friends. Plus, I have next year to look forward to, and I can’t wait until 2013. I’ll definitely be there. And with the event falling so close to my birthday, Jon is lucky, because he never has to come up with an original birthday gift for me again.