Bread Loaf, Day 10 began with a lecture by Mark Doty (and if you don’t already know how I feel about the man and his work, you haven’t been paying attention). I was definitely there, and was not disappointed. (Damn! Where are my notes?????) I’ll have to get back to you on recapping the lecture, but suffice it to say, it blew the top of my head off. It was about Whitman and his struggles with form, popularity and ego in his lifetime. It really struck a chord with me. I need to read more Whitman.
After the lecture the fiction staff members started setup for the Gala Reception to be held later in the day, while the poetry staffers workshopped. We had to re-establish the alcohol perimeter (complete with its eight-foot moat–good old Vermont!) that we had taken down for the book signing that ended up being in the barn anyway due to rain. We set up the tables and generally organzied things as well. At noon, I hurried through my lunch and raced off in my vehicle to Port Henry, New York where my husband was to be arriving by train. Yay! Except the train was an hour late, taking us almost up to the reception by the time we got back. Fortunately, my awesome fellow-staffers had finished set-up (minus the alcohol, which can’t be left unattended–VT state law) so I was able to attend readings by Eric Puchner (very funny) and Ursula Hegi (excellent, as always). Ursula read from her latest novel, the maunuscript of which she had just turned in to her editor before coming to Bread Loaf.
The Gala Reception went off without a hitch–good food, plenty of drinks, people really at ease with each other by this point in the conference, and the traditional Gala Reception hayride. If you’ve not been on this hayride, you’ve not lived. Or, rather, you’ve not almost nearly died. One of the BL caretakers, Leo, runs the tractor and he starts out calmly chugging through the fields across from the inn. It’s idyllic, really. Until Leo kicks his tractor into high gear and shoots forward, dragging the wagon down into steep gullies and up the other side, producing a strange marriage of the roughest wooden roller coaster you’ve ever been on, and a screaming, giggling roll in the hay. It’s really quite the experience.
That evening’s reading was fantastic: Thomas Sayers Ellis’ bold, funny, innovative poetry delivered in a sing-song slam style complete with gestures to depict his punctuation followed by a great reading by Robert Boswell that was also very funny, and read with perfect comedic timing despite his obviously sore throat.