Air-conditioning in October, really? But when I got back from the Collingswood Book Festival this mid-afternoon, I was so hot and tired, and the house so unpleasantly sultry, that it just had to be done.
I also felt sorry for those festival stall-holders without canopies. The festival takes place on Collingswood’s main street (Haddon Ave.) one Saturday every October from 10-4, and normally one would hope for a bright day, but today the sun was hammering down and I saw a few people suffering visibly.
Fortunately, that was the only negative on a day overflowing with positives. I kicked off the day at the Poetry Tent, hosting the Awards Presentation for the Children’s Poetry Contest on the theme of “Putting Words to Peace.” I hope the tent’s capacity audience was as inspired as I was, both for peace and for poetry, by hearing the children read their work.
Next I got to read for half an hour, which was a great opportunity to air a goodly selection of the new Sisters & Courtesans sonnets. Of course some of the children stayed to listen with their parents, so I had to concentrate on the Sisters rather than the racier Courtesans, but I sensed that the poems went over well. Three of my RSCNJ students also turned up, no doubt lured by my promise of extra credit, but it was still good to see them at such an event.
While my friend Bruce Niedt co-ran the haiku workshop I stretched my legs with a hot walk up and down the length of the festival. I saw several old friends and acquired two books (“Object Lessons” by Eavan Boland and “Life Is Short, Laundry Is Eternal” by Scott Benner–this was a trade!) I also bought a pair of TARDIS earrings, which I may never wear, but such initiatives deserve rewarding!
Finally I returned to the Poetry Tent, where organizers Walter Howat and Tammy Paolino were still heroically keeping events marching to schedule, to listen to Father Michael Doyle, followed by the ineffable BJ Ward, who has a new book out–“Jackleg Opera: Collected Poems, 1990-2013.” I persuaded him to trade this for $10 plus my chapbook, “The Stolen From,” but I think I got the better deal!
Despite the sweltering heat there was a huge turnout this year, which is doubly gratifying in an age of smartphones and on demand TV. I learned today that the book is definitely not dead yet, and nor, it would appear, is the summer.