Sep 28, 2008

2008 National Book Festival Recap

This year's 2008 National Book Festival weathered the rain! The day was overcast, but participation was high and the rain didn't come until near the end of the festival. I wanted to share one comment we heard from tourists as we were leaving. The white tents were set up as pavilions for various genres as usual, closer to the end of the National Mall with the Capitol Building. Bunches of us were headed out of the National Mall and tourists were coming onto the Mall passing by us. A man said to the woman with him, "Hey, what's that down there? A carnival." My immediate response without thinking was, "Yes, it's a carnival for book lovers."

I want to share with everyone some photos I took and that my husband took of the poets in the Poetry pavilion. We also got a chance to take photos of Neil Gaiman and Tiki Barber as they signed books for other patrons of the festival. I thought I would share them since I'm sure they have fans out there. First, here's a look at the abundant crowd in the poetry tent; it wasn't as full as some of the other tents, but this signifies that interest in poetry is not dead.

The first poet we caught up with--since I missed the Poetry Out Loud segment--was the new U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, though her term in that office actually doesn't start until Oct. 1. I'll share with you two pictures, one of her being interviewed and one of her signing my book, The Niagara River. It was good to meet a fellow poet who is not into all the hoopla of becoming a top creative writing professor and who is more interested in just writing poetry and possibly improving the literacy of our country.

Traditionally, poet laureates have hailed from Ivy League schools and have careers teaching creative writing graduate degrees, but Ryan teaches at a community college and is engaged in improving literacy. She even commented about how her being an outsider may have helped her become Poet Laureate because there is a "romanticized" notion of the outsider in the United States. Moreover, she talked about how she came to poetry later on as a student and never believed herself to be a writer until a cross-country biking trip. In Colorado, she saw the Rockies and answered the question: Do you enjoy writing? And her answer was yes. She writes poems that are available to the reader in spite of their double meanings, allowing readers to see not only a surface meaning, but a deeper, emotional meaning as well. She is also a fan of Emily Dickinson, though she came to her through reverse psychology thanks to one of her teachers. Dickinson is one of my favorite poets as well.

A great many of her poems are short because she likes them that way. But she says that while they are small on the outside, there is much more beneath the surface. I found her to be witty and engaging, and I look forward to her tenure as U.S. Poet Laureate, though she does not have any specific plans in mind other than touting the need for 100 percent in funding for public libraries and their branches so that they can be open 7 days per week and longer hours.

One of the next poets we listened to was Eavan Boland who is from Ireland, though she lives in California and teaches at Stanford University. She focuses a great deal of her poetry on the differences between history and the past, where history is the recorded events and the past is something deeper and more nuanced. One of the poems she read, "Quarantine," examined Ireland in 1847 at the time of the famine, but it also discussed the deep love between a man and his wife who died during the famine. Even with his last breath he held his wife's feet to warm them with the remaining body heat he had. Many of the poems she read discussed Ireland at the time of the famine and the nuanced past of that time period. She was equally engaging. I just may have to pick up one of her volumes for review.

Molly Peacock reminded me of school teachers I had in high school because she was approachable and ready to answer your questions. She read quite a few poems and engaged the audience with her wit. Another poet I should probably add to my TBR pile. I have quite a few photos of her speaking and answering questions, but I think this photo is the most dignified. She's an expressive poet and very animated. Her eyes grow wide and her lips will form a nice round O in many cases, but I don't think those would make for very flattering pictures.

The final poet we heard before we headed back home was Michael Lind, whom the moderator called a man of letters, which I presume means he is well educated, one quite a few awards, and has accomplished a great deal in his given profession. In this case, he has been a columnist, a novelist, and a poet. I purchased his book, Parallel Lives, at the festival because the lines in his poems caught my attention, though he is a very sedate reader compared to the other poets we heard. I would almost say that I prefer to read his verse on paper than to hear him speak. I do enjoy his verse because it often does touch upon recent events that may be forgotten as the next horrific or phenomenal effort takes its place in the media headlines.

Finally, here is Neil Gaiman---I had to keep you fans reading somehow--the book sale tent only had a limited number of his latest book, which is not even out in stores yet. Those books went fast, and his line was extensive. I'm not sure that everyone got to meet him or get their book signed. But the lines were moving fast, so you never know. He is not at all what I pictured.

As for Tiki Barber, who is a former New York Giants football player and wrote a children's book, his line was longer. However, I am quite sure that some of the people in his line were having NFL memorabilia signed and not necessarily his book. I know that a ton of kids and parents were lined up alongside him as I was taking his photo. We just wanted a close up shot of him since we had nothing for him to sign.

Overall, you can see I really did not spend much time outside of the Poetry Pavilion. I did that for two reasons, one I was pressed for time and the Poetry Pavilion was the furthest one and two I love poetry! I was surprised by the number of people in the audience at the Poetry Pavilion, but I also was pleased by the turnout. The Poetry Pavilion was co-sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and many of their personnel introduced the poets scheduled to read and they had a table full of reading guides for not only famous poets and writers, but also information about Poetry Out Loud. I was equally pleased that the hearing impaired could enjoy the poems as well with the help of sign language experts.

I would love to hear from anyone else who attended the festival and what events and authors they saw and what they thought. I think it would be great to hear about the other Pavilions' events as well. Feel like sharing, leave a comment.

For other experiences at the 2008 National Book Festival:
The Literate Housewife
DC Reflections
Jason's View From D.C.
Sarah Moffett
Biblio's Bloggins
Knitting4Shirley
S. Krishna's Books

35 comments:

Nymeth said...

Sounds like a wonderful experience! And not just because Neil Gaiman was there :P

Serena said...

I know a lot of you are neil gaiman fans so I thought I better get a photo of him for all of you. I have yet to read one of his books, but I should have one coming in the mail soon.

Sandra said...

I enjoyed reading this, and the photos of course. I've read Molly Peacock's work in various literary magazines in the past.

Serena said...

This is the first I have heard Molly Peacock, but she made me want to hear more. I have to get one of her volumes for my library.

Jena said...

Lucky you! I didn't get to go (being in Canada and on the West Coast), but if I still lived in Ohio I'd probably have made the effort to get there--what a great author line-up. I will live vicariously through Jennifer at The Literate Housewife, though, I hope, when she checks back in.

bethany said...

That is awesome that you got to go!!!! I live all the way out in Oregon...but I bet it was a dream. Thanks for sharing it with us!!! That was so very sweet:)

Serena said...

Jena and Bethany: It was worth the trip into the city even under the threat of thunder showers. I had a great time, got to hear some great poets, get some signatures, new books, and photos. It was fun. Next year I think book bloggers should plan a trip to come down to D.C. for the 2009 lineup!

Sarah E. Moffett said...

Kevin Young was my favorite poet find from last year's National Book Festival. The man would have made an anorexic want to camp out at a Southern Buffet. It sounds like you have had our own finds and appreciations. Cheers to the poetry tent being packed...mostly.

Tracy said...

I just got Neil Gaiman's new children's book for review on Friday. I look forward to your review. Thanks for the photo and the post. Looked like you had a great experience:)

Jeannie said...

I'm so glad you had a good time, Serena. Thanks for sharing and for the great pictures.

P.S. I like Emily Dickinson too.

literatehousewife said...

My husband stood in line for me for Neil Gaiman's autograph, but didn't make it. Thank you so much for the picture. I was able to meet Philippa Gregory and had a great time. It was wonderful to be surrounded by people who love to read.

J. Kaye Oldner said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting these photos!

Serena said...

Tracy: I did not get the latest Neil Gaiman book, but I should have an older one on the way, which I will review.

I'm glad everyone is enjoying the photos from the festival. I had a great time even though I think my husband was sleeping with his eyes open most of the time.

Amber said...

It sounds like you had a great time. Being around others of like minds can be rejuvenating for our own writing. :)

Serena said...

Amber: I agree! I feel like a rejuvenated poet these days.

Anna said...

Glad you enjoyed yourself. Can't wait to read some of Kay Ryan's poetry. If I'd known it was only raining at my house and not in D.C., I would've gone with you! Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience and pictures!

--Anna
http://diaryofaneccentric.blogspot.com

Serena said...

Hey, I told you it wouldn't be raining in D.C., but you didn't believe me. Topper said rain along the shore areas and not the city, so I figured there wouldn't be. He showed the storm systems and they were off to the east.

Anyways, you missed some great stuff.

Anna said...

I didn't really consider myself living on the shore! LOL Well, there's always next year!

--Anna
http://diaryofaneccentric.blogspot.com

Serena said...

Yeah, that's what you said last year and the year before that!

Anna said...

:P

--Anna
http://diaryofaneccentric.blogspot.com

Dar said...

Great post Serena! I love reading the posts of all of you who were there-it makes me feel as though I got to share in the experience somewhat. Glad you had a good time.

Serena said...

I'm glad that you are enjoying the posts. I hope that I can give everyone a glimpse into the event.

Jill said...

TAG - you're it - http://mrstreme.livejournal.com/62368.html

Serena said...

Uh oh, Jill. I'm scared.

Darla D said...

I'm glad you had fun! I had to work last Saturday, sigh - but I did take off last year to go and had a great time! I'll get my turn again next year, I hope...and maybe with better weather! :-)

Serena said...

Darla:

It's too bad you had to work. It was fun. Maybe I'll see you next year!

Darla D said...

That would be great! We could meet up on the Magic School Bus! :-)

Serena said...

I assume they have the magic bus every year then. I'd never noticed it before.

Darla D said...

Well, they had it last year, and it was fun to see how excited all the kids were to see it. Even mine, who (especially the older one) consider themselves a bit too urbane to jump up and down at the sight of the Magic School Bus were very pleased to climb on board to check it out. No Ms. Frizzle though! :-)

Serena said...

I don't think I made it last year, but I don't remember it from the year when Tim O'Brien and Anita Shreve were there...whatever year that was. LOL But that could just be me being unobservant.

Shana @ Literarily said...

Serena, you and Jennifer are just so lucky to have been able to attend this event.

Thanks for sharing the photos and your experiences at the festival!

Sarah said...

I attended the Festival as well. I'd hoped to go to the Fiction tent to hear Geraldine Brooks speak, but alas, the tent was packed, so I went to the History tent and heard her husband, Tony Horwitz, speak instead. He was very funny, and I look forward to reading his books. The other writers in the History tent were also funny and interesting, and I look forward to investigating the History genre.

Serena said...

History books can be so interesting, particularly if you are interested in a certain period. I really like the Vietnam War and WWII era. But I have a great many interests.

I'm glad you had a great time at the National Book Festival. I can't wait until next year!

S. Krishna said...

Great post! It was nice to read about the poetry tent since I was holed up in the Fiction/Mystery tent the whole time!

Serena said...

Thanks. I'm glad you liked it. I had no idea that there were book bloggers near me. You are the third or fourth one I've found. We should have a meet and greet one of these days and talk books.