Thursday, May 1, 2008


Weather in New York turned lovely yesterday afternoon, though it had been cold and wet the days before that. I braved lashing rain to meet Marilyn Hacker for lunch in the Village, where we exchanged news over our meal for better than an hour. There is a keenness to Marilyn's intellect and a passion for the people and causes she cares about. But we've known each other so long she seems the next thing to being a family member. A truth I often return to is that I am very, very lucky in my friends; and in times of transition like this one, friends, almost more than anything else, help you remember who you are... (Case in point: a delicious dinner that evening with Karen Clark and Jonathan Bernstein on the upper West Side. The other guest was Elise Buchman, who, along with Karen was a student in a class I taught at CCNY earlier in the year.)

Yesterday at the end of the work day I met Jonathan Galassi at the new address of the offices of Farrar, Straus and Giroux on 18th St. We had a pleasant hour together before both went our ways to dinner. He is one of the most qualified editors in the business, no doubt because he is a poet himself and, unlike so many, has actually read all the good books.

I met with my agent Mitchell Waters at Curtis Brown this morning to make plans about the novel (my second) that he is representing. He showed me some of he new books he helped find a berth for, and all in all, it was a productive meeting.

Next I had lunch with Ben Downing, whom I met when I was teaching in the Writing Division at Columbia back in the 1990s. He has published a book of poems and many brilliant literary essays. The latter are so fine I have a feeling that prose is eventually going to supplant poetry for Ben entirely; but maybe not. He also works as a co-editor with Herb Leibowitz, the founder of Parnassus magazine. I went to his place on 10th Street and met his French pug Tallulah, what the French would call une jolie laide, and certainly as sweet-natured as that breed can be. Ben's wife Michele was out, and his daughter Cordelia at school, so we found a lunch place nearby and had a good time shouting out opinions and jokes over the typical din of a popular Manhattan restaurant.

Sum total: a wonderfully restorative week in my former home base, a city I know like the back of my hand. Actually, years ago, I put together a long poem about New York, published as the title work in A Call in the Midst of the Crowd(1978). Like Paterson, which was one of my models, it intersperses prose documents about the history and geography of New York among the lyric and narrative sections. As for genre, it definitely falls into the "modern poetic sequence" category that was the subject of a thoughtful panel at the last AWP Conference, moderated by Yerra Sugarman. I was one of the participants, along with Reginald Shepherd, Alicia Ostriker, Fady Joudah, and Grace Schulman. At the time I thought I should have written about it here, but it was a crowded month for me and it slipped by.

Tomorrow I go to Hudson for the CLMP event.


Bill Knott said...

these social literati entries are a fascinating break from your normative intelligent comments on poetic matters . . .

i myself had a beer with one of the editors of Rat Vomit Review last year or was it the year before . . .

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