Last May, I took a trip to Sarasota, Florida to help out with the 2013 PoetryLife Festival along with most of the other Vanderbilt MFAs. Here’s what I spent those five-ish (okay, five-ish autocorrected to ‘feverish.’ That wouldn’t be wholly incorrect.) geeking out over:
1. Conversation—Every night, two of my dear friends and I would gather in one of our rooms, pour some bourbon and talk. We reminded each other that poetry means so much and is more than worth our time and work. And y’all know I love some good conversation with good people.
2. Lizards—Sarasota is full of tiny lizards that sometimes do push-ups. ON THE SIDES OF TREES (Really! We saw them at breakfast one morning!). They’re little miracles.
3. WS Merwin and Naomi Shihab Nye—Okay, these are poet-celebs whose work I have loved for a while. Naomi remembered my name from an issue of Toad the Journal that featured both of us and read us a devastatingly beautiful poem called “Two Countries.” “Love means you breathe in two countries.” I mean, what?! And I was legitimately starstruck by Merwin. When he signed my books, I couldn’t say more than ‘thank you,’ which, I suppose, is enough. I hope he knew how much I meant it. I could mean that even only for his poem “Separation,” which is going to find its way into my thesis, somehow.
4. Dressing up at night—There is something that makes me feel so beautiful, and it is called “wearing regular clothes all day and then dressing up at night.” Especially when you’re in a group, and everyone goes into their rooms, changes, and then emerges looking spiffy. I always feel extra-pretty if I know people have previously seen me looking all regular-day, and then I get to dress up at night. Plus, it’s an excuse to exchange compliments. Who doesn’t love a good “Wow, you look nice!” and getting the same in return. It feels like the whole day everyone’s been looking down at their feet, and then they all finally look up at one another. We all looked so good going to those fancy dinners in Sarasota. I felt lovely.
5. Drinks at night—After-dinner drinks are awesome. It’s like a better dessert. And sitting in a 75 degree breeze coming off the water and listening to jazz music…ah. Perfect.
6. Bocce ball—E and I played bocce almost every afternoon. Trash talk. Actual talk. Friend time.
7. PoetryLife itself—The middle/high school kiddos who read their poems: amazing. If we want to keep poetry alive, let’s teach it to the kids. Sarasota made me even more sure that I want to be a teacher.
8. Breakfasts—One of the best things about Sarasota was walking, barefoot, down the creaky wooden steps to the kitchen, pouring myself some coffee, and eating breakfast while looking at the water. Every day: fruit, a homemade muffin, and a main course. The last day was orange French toast—heavenly.
9. The ocean—It churns, just like all the poems say it does. I love the way it silences us, how it makes our brains quiet for a moment. EB White says that “The sea answers all questions, and always in the same way,” and I think he’s right. Standing with my feet in the ocean feels like I’m figuring some big question out (even if I can’t name which question it is), or at least getting closer to it. Like the Gilmore Girls say, “We’re almost there and nowhere near it. All that matters is we’re going.” I loved wearing khaki and light blue, looking at the sky, feeling the waves crash around my feet, letting the wind move my hair. It was a perfect last-Sarasota-morning activity. I went through security at the airport later that day with sand still between my toes. Wonderful.
10. Flying—I love airplanes and airports and carrying bags and whispering on planes and sitting next to people I like a whole bunch and listening to music and in-flight snacks and so many things about flying (another post, y’all).