The press sold out of all of the copies of A Northern Spring that it brought to Seattle.
SOld out / AWP Seattle
Great stage, lighting, sound, space, crowd, staff, and tap offerings at Underbelly. It was the kind of bar reading where one gets the sense that either readings have been held here before or else the crowd is a moveable feast that knows what to do when a writer steps up the mic.
My colleague and friend Lynette Reine-Grandell's new memoir, Wild Things: , is out. Her spouse and co-star of the memoir, Venus De Mars, asked her to read something that would make her cry, and Lynette obliged. I have read before with and know David Groff and Lee Ann Roripaugh, and have read and am acquainted with Jan Beatty. Jen Manthey lives in the Twin Cities and so I know of her travel in the obits with many who also travel in hers, but this is the first time I have met her. Laura Bandy and her book are both new to me.
Over really good happy-hour-priced wood-fired pizza and a local pilsner, I've decided to try to capture the arc of the A Northern Spring as well as I can by reading a bit from the beginning, a bit from the middle, and a bit from the end. I'll start with prose that sets the scene—us in Derry when the travel ban is announced. After that, I'll talk a bit from notes to contextualize the book as a whole, how the prose is set in four preludes plus a coda with the poems intervening, and maybe a bit about why it's structured that way. Then I'll read a couple of my shorter, most reading-friendly poems, will say a bit more from notes—how the book coming to be was a matter of a confluence of events I'll likely never experience again—putting the arc I'm trying to capture inside a frame, and then I'll close with some prose from the coda.
PHOTO, LEFT: The handbill for the AWP offsite reading that Trio House Press is co-sponsoring, along with the South Dakota Review, Gold Wake Press, and the Minnesota Historical Society Press. The readers representing the various presses are discernible by the color-coding, the press names being the same color as the stars in which the names of their readers appear. The reading theme—"WE'RE THE FLOWNOVER"—is a tongue-in-cheekish (or not so tongue-in-cheekish) reference to the denotation of "flyover":
flyover—as modifier—US informal, derogatory denoting central regions of the US regarded as less significant than the East or West coasts: his appeal extends way beyond the Bible Belt and the flyover states.
The stars are homage to the stars of First Avenue & 7th Street Entry, the two historic and iconic music venues (known by locals as "The Mainroom" and "The Entry") housed side by side in the same building with a passageway between them, in downtown Minneapolis, known to the world as as the club featured in the Prince film Purple Rain.
PHOTOS, RIGHT: Top, a close up of the some of the First Ave stars inside which are the names of bands/performers who have appeared at either The Mainroom or The Entry. Bottom, First Ave main entrance.
Poet tries to figure out how to read from a book with a narrative arc / AWP Seattle
The official pub date for A Northern Spring is July 1, 2023. Trio House Press has advance copies for sale at the AWP booth. I've spent a lot of time in the Trio House booth telling the story of A Northern Spring and signing copies. I'm figuring out how to talk about the book. I'm revising this story of the book on the fly, figuring things out as I say them, say them again, say them differently, adding and subtracting—editing.
As I do so, there's another me beneath the outward me trying to figure out how to read from A Northern Spring in the ten minutes allotted at the offsite reading on Friday night, doing the same sort of revising, the same sort of editing. A Northern Spring is a hybrid work, with both prose and poetry throughout, and what I'm realizing is that picking what to read from poetry-only books is a much simpler endeavor than this. Poems X, Y, and Z seem fitting for this crowd. I'll read those. If I've misread the mood of the crowd, I'll have poems A, B, and C tabbed, on standby. The more you read from a book of poetry, the more sets you have ready, the easier it is to shift to a new set midstream if the need arises, if your reading of the crowd dictates you change up what you're reading to them.
I have written thematic books—all of my books are thematic in the way that I understand "thematic"—but never have I written a book with a real-ass narrative arc. Until now. Until A Northern Spring and its prose. And that demands a different kind of reading. How do I capture enough of the arc? Do I read some from the start, some from the middle, and some from the end? Or do I not try to capture the arc at all? Do I instead read one single passage, as a novelist might read a gripping scene?
This is the gist of the inward conversation that nobody privy to the various iterations of the outward conversation know is even going on. I think that should ask a novelist or several how they do it, for advice. I think that there can't be a better place to do that than here.
PHOTO: The THP booth at AWP Seattle. From left to right: Issam Zineh, author of the poetry collection Unceded Land (Trio House), Natasha Kane, THP Acquisitions and Publicity Director, Patrick Werle, THP Editor. Some copies of A Northern Spring are stacked behind Issam, just to the right of the book with the green cover, of which you can make out "Lucky," the entire title of which is If You're Lucky Is a Theory of Mine—my second collection of poetry and the first published by Trio House, ca. 2013—ten years ago.
I travel light when I fly, only ever with a backpack and perhaps a small carry on to cram under the seat on top of that, but usually only the backpack. I tend to wear the same clothes over and over, and can always wash anything that needs it the sink or bathtub where I'm staying. Knowing that I never have to wait at the baggage carousel feels like I've figured something out that others haven't.
Headed to the AWP Annual Convention in Seattle, I had a couple pairs of pants, a couple shirts, toiletries, socks, underwear, laptop, headphones for in-flight movies, and fifteen of the twenty author copies of A Northern Spring that Trio House sent me (the other five had been given away already to some of the book's principles). I plan to carry a few with me in a smaller bag with a shoulder strap (packed flat into my backpack) in case I encounter a situation where it's handy to have a copy to give away, swap, or sell. Fifteen is probably way too many for that purpose, but I have the space and the backpack—I've tested it—isn't too heavy on the shoulders with the books in it.
Fifteen copies is, though, enough to trigger a warning with the TSA. Via the security scanner, they must look like a big brick full of the intention to obscure. Three TSA officials—a woman and two men—have waved me over to a table at the end of the baggage conveyor. The woman does all of the talking, asking me the standard questions—where I'm going, etcetera—as their six hands in matching rubber gloves unzip and probe my bag's various outer pockets, and then they get to the books in the main compartment. I tell them that they're advanced copies of my new book. The woman—still speaking for the three of them—is nice enough but doesn't ask me what the book is about, what I write—not anything like that. They split up the work, hands grabbing copies and ruffling through the pages like their flipbooks, each with a different animation. It takes awhile to get through all fifteen, and I use the time to put my shoes, belt, etcetera back on. They hand me my backpack, all unzipped and opened, the TSA version of graffiti that says WE WERE HERE. I put everything in place again on one of the get-yourself-back-together benches, and still have time for a pre-flight Bloody Mary near my gate.
PHOTO: My trusty, emerald green backpack, which I don't think you can get in this color anymore. It has been to numerous ports foreign and domestic, but never once has ridden in a cargo hold.