There is no way to adequately describe my experience at Poetry at Round Top. It was an absolute revelation. I am changed as a poet and as a person. I will do my best to tell you about it.
I arrived Thursday and with the help of my friend Lucas Jacob, found my way to my room on the campus of the gorgeous Festival Hill. On my way, I bumped into one of my favorite poets, Lauren Berry. If you look far enough back in my entries here, you will see that her book, The Lifting Dress, has been tremendously influential for me. I had the pleasure of getting to know her better over the course of the festival.
The first event I attended was a panel of feature poets discussing different elements of creating a full length book. It was interesting and helpful, particularly given where I am with my poet life of late.
That evening I attended the first featured readings in the concert hall, which is far and away the most beautiful venue I've ever seen for a reading. Carrie Fountain and Patricia Smith read. Carrie Fountain's poems were so lovely, funny and sharp, driven by such a clear, incisive voice. Patricia Smith's poems were stunning, heartbreaking, difficult in the best of ways. I was definitely not the only person who got emotional. I bought their books, Fountain's Burn Lake and Smith's Blood Dazzler, which they graciously signed for me.
That night I attended the Fellows Reading in this bizarre and wonderful space underneath the chapel. It was pretty much a party. I had lovely conversations with poets from all over, including some of the features.
Saturday morning started early with fantastic readings by Laura Van Prooyen and Malachi Black right after breakfast. I can't think of a better way to start a Saturday, frankly. I loved Laura Van Prooyen's poems as well as her reflections on living in Texas. Malachi Black's work was powerful and spiritual -- like church in the best of ways.
After that, I attended a panel of feature poets discussing their writing lives. I love that they took "writing" in "writing lives" as both an adjective and a verb. They talked about their lives as writers and the act of writing their lives. Of course they did.
After that, I participated in the open mic. Lots of attendees participated and it was fun to hear everyone's work. I also really enjoyed my brief time on that gorgeous stage. I read "PTSD at 28," which was very well-received.
Dinner at Festival Hill was lovely, followed by readings by Richard Blanco and Sharon Olds. Richard Blanco was the poet for the last inauguration, so he shared that poem and some of his experiences surrounding that tremendous honor. I particularly enjoyed what he had to say about the concepts of home, country, and our obsessions as poets. I can't even describe the experience of Sharon Olds reading, except to say that it was like magic. I appreciated her honesty and openness.
I had the unbelievable honor of spending time with many of the feature poets Saturday evening. They were truly lovely, gracious, good humans and I am so happy I got the opportunity to get to know them a bit better.
Sunday morning, I sat next to the wonderful Ellen Bass at breakfast, then attended her powerful, moving, and unforgettable reading. Then I took a very illuminating workshop about the line break with Richard Blanco. I headed back home after that. It was kind of bizarre to leave -- it was so intense and awesome in that literal way that it filled me with awe. I very much hope I can go back next year.
Thanks so much to everyone who makes this amazing festival happen, thank you to the feature poets, and everyone who shared this incredible experience with me.
So here's a selfie of a happy poet in some Indian paintbrushes at Festival Hill. Cheers, y'all.