Saturday, July 22, 2017

7. Celebrities

[This note dates from a month ago; I haven't been keeping up with this cross-posing business very well.]
My brushes with celebrities have been few and far between. We were on the East Side the other week, walking past the Campbell funeral home, and I thought someone hip must have died—I’ve never seen so many hipsters in ties smoking outside of here. And then, lo and behold as we turned onto Madison, there were Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa loading themselves into a big black SUV, presumably for the ride back to New Jersey, or perhaps the interment.
The one that sticks in my mind happened in Orono, Maine, at the National Poetry Foundation “American Poetry in the Fifties” conference a bit over twenty years ago. I was in a crowded room, with far too many academics and poets and far too much booze, amusedly watching a Hugh MacDiarmid scholar hitting on an avant-garde poet, when someone poked me and said, “Look, there’s Becky!”
He pointed at a young blonde woman across the room, conversing intently with a knot of poet-types. Yes, I said, she looks exactly like Becky, the older daughter in Roseanne. “No,” said my friend, “that is Becky. That’s the actress. She’s in college now, and she’s interested in Beat Poetry. So she came up to Orono to hang out with Beat Poets, and learn stuff.”
So I looked things up (harder then in those pre-Wikipedia days), and found that Lecy Goranson was indeed an undergrad at Vassar, an English major no less. Good for her, I thought at the time—and a good choice of conferences to attend. The MLA, for instance, would be just the place to kill dead any young person’s passionate interest in contemporary writing.* But the Orono conferences—free-wheeling interactions of living poets, critics, theorists, places where at times one could see literary history actually in the making—that’s something else altogether.
Looking forward to being in Maine next week, in short. Keeping my eyes open for celebrities!

*I’ve been to plenty of MLAs, and had just wonderful (and abysmally awful) times—but the ambient job-market angst and savage careerism on display... well...


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