Bread Loaf, August 13, 2009
Should I make a disclaimer here? That I adore Bread Loaf and maybe I’m not the most unbiased reporter of happenings from the Mountain? Nah. If you didn't know that about me already, you’ll figure it out soon enough. :)
This is my first time returning to Bread Loaf in three years and I’m honored to be back, and thrilled (if a little nervous) to be teaching a craft class during my visit. But I have to say, the first moment I topped the long hill of Rt 125 and spied those goldenrod colored houses, well, I got a little verklempt.
Then I stopped in at the office said hello to the very fine Noreen Cargill and her lovely back-office staffers Eva, Michelle, and Laura (van den Berg) and major hugs were in order. I was barely in time to catch the end of Lorri Moore’s reading (what I heard was excellent) and then all of C. K. Williams. I wasn’t familiar with his poetry, but I thought he gave a great reading and I’m going to look for his book in the bookstore. It was cool when he said he had been here when he was in his twenties, met Robert Frost, and was honored to be reading in the Little Theater.
After that was the welcome reception, with cocktails on Treman Lawn, where I couldn’t stop finding excellent friends to hug: Ru Freeman, Paul Austin, Sasha West, James Hall, Kirsten Menger-Anderson, Jim Ruland, Heidi Durrow, and more. It was amazing to be back in one of my very favorite places, seeing friends that I hadn’t seen for years. Ahhh, the community of writers, my tribe.
From there, we went to dinner (I had the grilled salmon with a yummy cilantro and tomatillo salsa on top. I could hardly remember to eat, though, so enamored I was to be meeting new friends (Mecca!) and virtual friends (Dolan!) and former fellow-staffers (Nina!) and generally catching up with all the others I haven’t seen nearly enough of over the years. It was like a grand family reunion.
After dinner, there was a kick-ass reading by Lynn Freed (no surprise) and Alan Shapiro (also no surprise). Lynn’s story (can’t remember the title of it or if she even told us the title) was one she said she wrote especially for an anthology. Of course she read impeccably in her lilting and lovely South African tinged voice. The story rocked my world and I’m still thinking about it. It was about a young girl found wild in the bush, possibly raised by baboons and how she is “tamed” for sinister purposes. I was hooked from the start, then repelled to find out her fate, and just at the point of I-can’t-take-it-any-more, she flipped our expectations and brought the story around to a shocking and satisfying conclusion. Masterful.
Alan Shapiro gave a great reading. His first set of poems were autobiographical, set in the mid-to-late sixties, an then he read a couple about his brother and sister both dying from brain cancer within a few years of one another. Then he finished with some of his trademark funny poems. He’s a great reader.
After that, I sat in on the History of Bread Loaf lecture given by David Bain. His talk included lots of old black-and-white photos (Truman Capote, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, Robert Frost, etc), and I had one of those walking-in-the-footsteps-of-greatness moments where I was thinking about all the talent that has passed through this place and how blessed and honored I feel to be part of the new history of Bread Loaf. Amazing.
The Scholar readings came after that, and can I just say that my friend Jim Ruland rocked the house? He was so composed at the microphone, told a perfect anecdote before reading, made the audience laugh and thereby primed them to listen even more intently. He came across as personable, poised, and articulate. What more could we wish for as authors? It was great to be in the audience cheering him on.
I was pretty thoroughly hosed after the long drive and thrill of being on the mountain, so I walked through the absolute dense darkness to my dorm, which is off of the main campus, and slept soundly.
(More on day 2 soon)