I got a postcard from the Academy of American Poets a few weeks ago about two readings at the New York Public Library's Margaret Liebman Berger Forum this summer. The first was Tuesday, July 14, with January Gill O'Neil, Ross Gay, and Meena Alexander, and I invited my friend Five-Two alum Elizabeth Lash.
I became interested in attending after reading Ross Gay's "For Some Slight I Can't Quite Recall", which struck me as similar in sensibility to what I publish here. I also read January Gill O'Neil's "How to Love".
O'Neil read from her 2014 book Misery Islands, dedicated to her children, Alex and Ella, who were in the audience briefly before setting off to explore the library. I particularly enjoyed some poems into which January snuck her name, and another with a reference to David Ortiz (though I am a Yankee fan).
Ross Gay invited South Indian-Filipina poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil for a surprise tandem read of poems based on correspondence about their gardens. He also read the moving "Spoon", about his murdered friend, Don Belton.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth's work meeting ran late, and she only caught the end of Meena Alexander's final poem, but after the reading I recommended Misery Islands to her. We bought copies and met January, who signed them. Yesterday, Elizabeth wrote to say I'd made a good recommendation, calling January "a fantastic writer".
The nitty-gritty of writing is sitting alone in thought, scribbling or typing up what insists it can coherently be expressed to someone else. Readings both reassure writers they are communicating well and suggest how they might communicate better. I look forward to the next one, August 11.