Austin International Poetry Fesitval

Trust Me, I’m a Poet

Back in April, when I attended the Austin International Poetry Festival, I got the chance to meet Nikki Giovanni and hear her speak, which was pretty awesome. But something happened after that speech which was also kind of awesome, and I want to share it.

Nikki’s presentation was at the Convention Center, which is right in the heart of downtown Austin. The parking garage where most of the AIPF attendees parked was only a couple of blocks away, but I won’t say that it was “conveniently located.” Downtown can be a confusing place. I live here, and even I get turned around sometimes. Many of the festival-goers were from out of town and all of them were poets, who are better known for their sonnets than their sense of direction. Suffice to say, there were a few lost souls in Austin that night.

I made it back to the parking garage with little trouble and was weaving my way down the spiral of parked cars toward the exit when I saw a woman who looked lost. I recognized her. I didn’t know her name, but I’d seen her at poetry workshops and knew she was attending AIPF. She was talking to a couple of non-poets—How do I know they weren’t poets? I could just tell.—and waving her arms and pointing. She looked stressed. The couple she was talking to looked perplexed.

I stopped my car, rolled down the window, and said, “Is everything okay?”

One of the non-poets said, “She can’t find her car.”

I looked at the poet whose face was familiar and said, “I’d be happy to drive you around to look for it.”

I expected her to gush with thanks and hop right into my car, but she didn’t. She hesitated and peered through the window at me. That’s when I realized she was familiar to me, but I wasn’t familiar to her. Stranger danger!

I wanted to reassure her. I wanted to say, “Oh, it’s okay, you can trust me. My name’s Carie. I recognize you from AIPF. We’ve been in poetry workshops together. I was at Nikki Giovanni’s speech tonight too. Wasn’t she amazing? I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.” But at that point, a line of cars had formed behind me, and I knew they were on the verge of honking, and I didn’t have much time, so the words that came out of my mouth were…

“You can trust me, I’m a poet.”

She got in.

I drove her around, and we found her car. All ended well, but I felt ridiculous about my choice of words. At the same time, though, I knew they were true. Poets are good people. Most of us are kind-hearted souls, and while we may not always deal in facts, we are honest. We may claim the sky is purple or compare a faded coat to a failed relationship or tell you the leaves on the trees outside our windows are voyeurs, and you may find that bizarre, but I promise that if you get in the right light, at just the right angle, you’ll see that we’re telling the truth. At least, a truth. You can trust that.

All I’m saying is, if you ever find yourself lost and stranded in a parking garage and needing someone to trust, you could do worse than a poet.

A few weeks ago, I told this story to my Cousin Kelley, who’s awesome. Kelley gets me in a way that few people do. Last month, for my birthday, she gave me this custom-made mug.

It’s my new favorite.

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=)

 

AIPF 2015: A Recap in Snippets

Last weekend, poetry invaded the city of Austin in the form of the Austin International Poetry Festival. Austin’s a pretty poetic city on any day of the year, but during the four days of AIPF it’s hard to avoid poets in any bookstore, coffee shop, or meeting place in town. And why would you want to? We are a lovely species.

As usual, the festival was a whirlwind of readings, workshops, meet & greets, performances, traffic obstacles, minor mishaps, sleeplessness, and poetic inspiration. (And yes, it IS possible to find poetic inspiration even in traffic obstacles. Just don’t try to write the poems while driving, as that would surely create more obstacles.)

People have been asking me how the festival went, and I have answered each of them the same way: with incoherent babble. Unfortunately, it’s hard to put into words everything that happens during this unique four-day fest. I’ll start off talking about the impressive level of poetry in di-verse-city, the festival anthology. Then I’ll meander into an anecdote about what it was like listening to Anna Yin talk about how she tried to quit poetry but couldn’t do it. Next I’ll launch into an excited rant about meeting Nikki Giovanni (because– wow!) before explaining that I’m still really quite tired from staying up all night for the Midnight-to-Dawn poetry reading at Full English. See? Babble.

I think the reason why AIPF can’t be summed up is because it shouldn’t be summed up. It’s not a cohesive flow of information from one presentation to the next. It’s a scatter of happenings. It is a dandelion puff of poetry seeds breathed across the city. AIPF is not an “outline” or an “agenda,” it is a poem itself. There are so many events and opportunities in the program that I truly believe no two people experience the festival in the same way.

So, instead of a summary, here are a few snippets from my own AIPF 2015 experience. To find out what your AIPF experience would be, save the dates for next year’s festival—April 7-10, 2016.

I'm proud that my poem "Poetry Tumbles" made it into this year's anthology.

I’m proud that my poem “Poetry Tumbles” made it into this year’s anthology.

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I was so excited to meet Nikki Giovanni. It was a real treat listening her speak and hearing the stories behind poems like “Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day” and “Ego-Tripping.”

The best thing about the festival is the people you meet. I had such a good time talking to Anne McCrady (www.inspiritry.com/) pictured here with Nikki Giovanni.

The best thing about the festival is the people you meet. I had such a good time talking to Anne McCrady (www.inspiritry.com) pictured here saying something very interesting to Nikki Giovanni.

Even the breaks at AIPF are inspirational. I read some of Nikki's poetry over lunch and coffee at Austin Java.

Even the breaks at AIPF are inspirational. I read some of Nikki’s poetry over lunch and coffee at Austin Java.

Photos from the Midnight-to-Dawn poetry reading at Full English.

Photos from the Midnight-to-Dawn poetry reading at Full English.

Me at the Midnight-to-Dawn Poetry Reading before I needed toothpicks to hold my eyelids open. This photo was taken by fellow poet Rie Sheridan Rose - www.riewriter.com

Me at the Midnight-to-Dawn event before I needed toothpicks to hold my eyelids open. This photo was taken by fellow poet Rie Sheridan Rose – http://www.riewriter.com

At the Nerd Read at Austin Books & Comics with the lovely and talented Rie Sheridan Rose, Joe Brundidge, Mike Whalen, and a poet whose name I did not catch.

The Nerd Read at Austin Books & Comics with the lovely and talented Rie Sheridan Rose, Joe Brundidge, Mike Whalen, and a poet whose name I did not catch. (That photo of me in the bottom right corner is another of Rie’s.)

A few more events that are not pictured but deserve to be mentioned:

* I didn’t take any pictures this year, but the youth anthology reading is another festival favorite for me. AIPF produces a second anthology composed of poems by kids ages four to eighteen. Listening to these amazing poets read their work always makes me smile.

* Also, all three workshops I attended were excellent.
– Anna Yin’s Poetry Alive presentation was wonderful. She posted a group photo of our class on her website.
Carolyn Adams’ Postcard Poems session combined two of the things I love most– snail mail and poetry. Thanks to her, I plan on participating in this year’s August Postcard Poetry Fest.
– When is the last time you found yourself wishing a workshop could be longer? That’s how I felt in “The New Face of Fairy Tales” with Pamela Laskin. I left her hour-long class with one complete poem draft and a lot of ideas for more.

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Interested in attending AIPF next year? Follow their Facebook page for news and updates. And feel free to ask me questions about it!

A Poetic Recap

This weekend, I attended the Austin International Poetry Festival (AIPF) here in my hometown of Austin, Texas. I am proud that my city hosts this annual event, proud that our festival draws poets from all over the world, proud (this year) to have a poem in the beautiful anthology.

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During the four-day festival, I participated in three poetry readings (and attended three more), took excellent workshops taught by David Meischen, Scott Wiggerman, Cindy Huyser, Faylita Hicks, and Robert Lee Brewer, and talked with dozens of amazing poets. Unfortunately, I don’t have contact information for all of them, but here are a few you should follow/read/like/fall in love with: Rie Sheridan Rose, Mike Whalen, Joe Brundidge, Liza Wolff-Francis, Allyson Whipple, Patrick Connors, and Shubh Bala Schiesser.

 

Highlights of the festival included:

The eighth graders from the Texas Schools for the Deaf & Visually Impaired

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These students got up on stage at Strange Brew with confidence and humor and voices that stuck with me long after their reading was over. Their performance rivaled those of the professionals.

My poetry reading at Strange Brew on Saturday

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I’ve read before, but never more than three poems at a large group reading. This was my first time to have ten whole minutes to share my work with an audience, and I really enjoyed myself up there. It was also a pleasure to share the stage with Chip Ross, Ben Beach, Wade Martin, Ginnie Siena Bivona, Dustin Pickering, Pat Connors, and… the gentleman in the bottom left picture whose name I forgot to write down. He is a great poet! Someone please help and tell me his identity!

The Nerd Read at Austin Books & Comics

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Because it was awesome.

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It’s not possible to do everything at AIPF, and I know that I missed a lot of poetry and a lot of magic, so if you were also lucky enough to be a part of the fun this weekend, please share your favorite moments in the comments below.

 

On a different poetry-related note…

This weekend, I also received notification that the new anthology of coffee-themed poems from Kind of a Hurricane Press is now available. It is titled Something’s Brewing and contains two of my poems, “Stained” and “Bittersweet Verse.”

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You can order a copy from Amazon or from Kind of a Hurricane Press’s homepage. I recommend reading it in your favorite local coffee shop.