Sunday, September 01, 2013

Decatur Book Festival 2013

Front: Wayne Koestenbaum, Megan Volpert, Theresa Davis
Back: Jee Leong Koh, Pablo Miguel Martinez

I was at the Decatur Book Festival this weekend to launch the anthology This Assignment Is So Gay: LGBTIQ Teachers on the Art of Teaching. The launch at Decatur High School, introduced by Georgia State Representative Karla Drenner, and moderated by the school's English Head of Department Cara Cassell, was well-attended. I read with Pablo Miguel Martinez, Theresa Davis and anthology editor Megan Volpert. Ed Madden could not make it to due to a neck problem, but Wayne Koestenbaum kindly stood in, and read two of Ed's poems. The Q&A session after the reading was filled with questions from the audience. How would you motivate homeless LGBTIQ youth to study? What has given you hope recently in your teaching? I was pleased that someone bought a copy of my Seven Studies after just hearing me read one of my poems.

Karla Drenner and Megan Volpert

The Decatur Book Festival is billed as the largest independent book fair in the country. It was certainly very well run. The air-conditioned hospitality suite for authors was a very welcomed respite from the heat. I attended an informative session on self-publishing by the CEO of BookLogix. I also heard Richard Blanco, Obama's 2nd inaugural poet, read in the Decatur Presbyterian Church. I was somewhat discomfited by the arc of his reading, which went from a search for home to finding it in his patriotic inaugural poem "One Today." The audience (congregation?) stood to applaud him at the end of the reading; I remained seated as I did not think that the quality of the poetry deserved my standing.

Laura McCullough and Tom Lux provided more substantial poetic fare at the City Hall stage. Her poems wrestled with violence, particularly gun violence, seen through the lens of bringing up her son. His poems, many of them, described his childhood love for killing things. Since they read in a kind of round-robin fashion, they seemed to be answering one another in the different stances that their poems took towards this knotty problem.

I bought from a clever seller three books for $10. Ryū Murakami's Almost Transparent Blue, Graham Swift's The Light of Day, and Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française. On hindsight, I paid for them from the proceeds of the sale of one copy of my book. It was a good festival.

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