When you go to an amusement park and ride every roller coaster, it’s hard to remember later what exactly happened on which one. You just know you had a ball. That’s sort of how I feel when I look back at the festival. I can remember the readings, and I can recall lines that stuck out to me. I can’t remember everything, though. The festival isn’t like going to a reading to hear a few poets. It’s an intense, all day event with twists and turns of phrases that make you feel so much. That’s how the festival was for me; I felt so much.
After going to the Arboretum with our friends from New Orleans, some of us read with them on the Gorgas House Lawn on Friday. I liked the outdoor setting. It was a smaller reading of about 50 people. People sat on blankets or the grass, and it felt extremely intimate. It was the first time we heard the New Orleans kids read and vice versa. We had a lot of fun there. My mother came, and I was glad she got to hear my work and understand exactly what I was doing in the internship and in college as a whole. She was able to understand that I was a part of a community of writers, and I was happy that she could share that with me. Will
I’m not used to feeling so early in the morning, but at 10 AM on Saturday, Bruce Covey opened the festival with the coolest poetry I’d heard in a while. I wanted to lean forward, take it in, and memorize everything he read to us. From that point, I realized we were in for some crazy awesome stuff. That’s another thing—these readings weren’t normal. Usually, I go to readings and sit with three or four friends. This time, I was with all of the interns and the kids from UNO. It was fun being with so many friends at a reading. Ethan Saul Bull (author of In the Hour and a Bedroom Later from Slash Pine Press) closed the reading with beautiful work from the chapbook some of us worked on last semester. I loved being able to meet and listen to the poets whose work we knew so well in Slash Pine. Being the first reading of the day, we got to see what was in store for the rest of the day. We knew the rest would be just as amazing.
The reading at Green Bar was full of some power houses. Ashley McWaters sticks out to me from that reading. I remember listening and thinking that I wanted to write like her, and I felt so lucky to be involved in a community of artists in Tuscaloosa where I could hear poetry that made me feel inspired to write. Some of the other interns, like Blake, read at the Green Bar. His parents were there, and it was the first time they were able to hear him read. It was amazing watching them listen to him. They were so proud of his (really awesome) work, and it was neat to watch them understand his function in the community of writers.
Mellow Mushroom was our last reading, and I’m pretty certain that it was my favorite. I was thrilled to hear Cindy St. John after reading Be the Heat (also out from Slash Pine Press), and she was amazing. I was also fortunate to hear Carolyn Hembree, a professor at UNO who brought our friends, read from her book Skinny. Her poetry is jaw dropping. It was probably my favorite reading of the festival. After the festival was over, we were all in sort of a daze. So many words were jumbled in my head, and I wanted to remember and make sense of them all. I couldn’t, but that’s okay. Remembering everything wasn’t important. What was important is the inspiration and sense of community I took away from the festival. There were so many people at each reading supporting the community of artists. It felt amazing to understand that this community of artists isn’t insular. It isn’t just the university, Tuscaloosa, or Alabama. It’s a nationwide community. It’s about coming to some poetry festival in Alabama to read with friends. Watching the exchanges between the poets was awesome. It was so cool how everyone seemed to know each other, and it gave me hope that one day, our own little Slash Pine internship community will be all over the place and at the same time be together in our community.