I’m still taking it all in. Reading at Housing Works Bookstore with Karolina Manko, US Poet Laureate Philip Levine and Pulitzer Prize-winning Tracy K. Smith last night at Tumblr/Knopf’s Celebrate Poetry event was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. By the time I got home, my face hurt from smiling so much.
Karolina is only 21 years old, but brought such a fierce heart to the stage. The poems Tracy read from Life On Mars managed to keep their feet on the ground, but their heads in the stars. When she read the line, “We saw to the edge of all there is,” I literally gasped.
And Mr. Levine! First of all, he’s so incredibly nice. Karolina and I were too shy to go talk to him on our own, but a wonderful friend of Knopf was kind enough to introduce us. Instantly, I felt silly for being so shy. He talks to you like you are a person. That’s obvious and yet increasingly rare among writers as celebrated as he is.
When he got on stage, he said, “I’ve added up the ages of the other three readers and I’m two years younger than them.” Every poem he read was, of course, a knock out. I’m debating getting the last two lines from “Of Love & Other Disasters” tattooed across my face. Toward the end of his reading, Philip said “I’ve got a language problem, too. The poems don’t come out the way I want. I want them immortal, but they come out mortal.”
I hear that, man. I hear that.