catching the chinatown bus from NYC to philly was quite the memory. as my cab pulled up to the buses, a woman rushed forward and opened my door, shouting at me. i assumed she needed my cab and hurried to exit, only to discover she was actually asking me my travel destination by saying, “D.C.! D.C?” repeatedly. as soon as i said philly, she turned heel.
i found the philly bus, and one of its few waiting passengers offered me a milk crate while we waited for its departure. rebekka ladewig, a german cultural theorist in the states for a conference, turned out to be a stunning bus companion, and i enjoyed an animated conversation with her about geography, sports, and arts. how’s this for an odd moment of synchronicity? when i found out the title of rebekka’s paper, “psychogeography and the instant city: the performative production of space in the 1960s,” it reminded me that a week earlier i’d written the title “psychograph E Colic, for spinach” in my notebook. at the time i had no clear reason why psychogeography’d suddenly occurred to me. it IS a gorgeous word, but at the time the word passed into my brain, i couldn’t suss out why it’d found me. foreshadowing? like my meeting with john mac master en route to NYC, meeting rebekka felt fated.
i arrived at janet neigh’s with just an hour to spare before the inaugural emergency reading series at upenn, featuring sarah dowling and jena osman. karen hannah met us and we scurried to the reading. for a new series, it was well-attended, with grad students spilling out of the seams of kelly writers’ house. sarah read her disturbing manuscript keepness with grace, her performance punctuated by unspoken words caught in glottal stops. a power-point slide show of US army instructional graphics and taliban war images, all taken from the US government’s website, accompanied jena’s essay on interruptions (which included scripted audience interruptions that distracted from the impact of her essay).
the readings were followed by a Q&A, kicked off by pre-planned questions both jena and sarah had a chance to consider ahead of time. when the audience was invited to ask questions, i immediately inquired about the pseudo-hierarchical implications of the term ‘mentor’ in the moderator’s introduction, which seemed to underscore the raison d’etre of the series (to feature an emerging artist and her mentor counterpart, to show their works in tandem). jena and sarah both voiced their discomfort with the term, sarah including a list of google searches she unearthed relating to ‘mentor’ (including the giggle-inducing ‘womentorship’). post-reading, i met event co-organizer julia bloch, nick montfort, and a few other lovely philadelphians.
friday morning found me in karen hannah’s temple u creative writing workshop, to read from wide slumber which she’s teaching this week. this reading marks the earliest in the morning i’ve hooshed and ha’d. excellent group of students, shiny questions ranging from the languages present in the book to use of movement during performance. after class, karen and i had an invigorating chat about pedagogy and how to talk about our writing projects after. i was heartened to hear her own reading adventures have lead her to steve venright, who’s similarly interested in spirals.
friday afternoon, i was mostly delirious from lack of sleep and too much soy protein, but delirium was mediated by my adventure with sarah, where we tracked down amazing light-up squish frogs and racing wind-up lepidoptera in a toy store. i had a fifteen-minute catnap before janet returned home. and then it was off to dinner!
friday evening, i read with jess arndt and sina queyras at Moles Not Molar. sweet turn-out, which a chance to chum with brian kim stefans and nick montfort. where NYC was frenetic, philly was much more familiar, familial. it felt like home.
saturday, i actually returned home. fascinating conversation with a swathmore college student en route to toronto, conversing about ecological economy and experimental poetry. upon his request, i recommended he check out poetry by jason christie and sina queyras, and he told me i’d made his day. saturday, i learned that poetry can make an economist’s day.