What Is America’s Favorite Poem?

To mark the publication of the third edition of The Oxford Book of American Poetry, they’re running a poll for “America’s Favorite Poem”, and so far T.S Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is beating out Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Come on, poetry fans: Are we going to let some monarchy-loving expatriate represent the best-loved American verse? I should think not!

Weird Wallace Stevens choice, though: “Sunday Morning,” not “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”? And where’s John Greenleaf Whitter?

24 April 2006 | poetry |

Karen Spears Zacharias at Wordstock

I always love to hear from Karen Spears Zacharias when she’s out at the book festivals. This time, she’s hanging out at Portland, Oregon’s Wordstock


DAY ONE: I could’ve used a sail today as I headed west through the Columbia River Gorge. It was the perfect windsurfer day. Frothy-white caps breaking and rolling to the earth’s pulse. I was tempted to pull off Interstate 84 to watch the Tidewater barge push upriver or maybe to take a hike to the top of a broken ridge. But I didn’t have time to dilly-dally around: Book TV was waiting.

My only stop was at Cousin’s Restaurant in The Dalles. I didn’t drop in for their colossal-sized cinnamon rolls, although that’s as good a reason as any. I had something else in mind. Every time a person walks through the door at Cousin’s a cow moos, making it impossible to carry out a discreet mission. But I quickly find a stall and leave a copy of After the Flag Has Been Folded on the back of a toilet, inscribed with these words: “The author has left this book for you. If you find it, please read it and then pass it along to another reader. Then drop me a line and let me know who you are, so we can follow the journey this book makes.” (I hope that journey doesn’t involve a sewer drain.)

C-Span’s Book TV bus was parked catawampus at Pioneer Square, across Broadway from Nordstrom’s, and the kindly book people reported that they had met all sorts of interesting characters throughout the day. There’s no better place for a character study than people-watching in Portland. The interview involved a few technical glitches, followed by some stammering around on my behalf. No matter how well-prepared I am, it never seems be enough.

Jennie Shortridge (Eating Heaven) met me at the nearby Starbucks, which was too crowded for a relaxing visit, so we found a quiet spot around the corner. Jennie, who’d driven down from her Seattle home, led a Wordstock workshop for teachers. It was well-attended and she even got paid for the gig, always a good thing.

Jennie and I first met at the Pulpwood Queens event in Jefferson, Texas. We both agreed that the best thing about the Pulpwood weekend was the friends we made, which is after all, how Kathy Patrick promotes it. Speaking of friends, ran into a couple in the lobby of the stately Benson Hotel. Cassandra King (The Same Sweet Girls) and Ron Rash (The World Made Straight). King has just returned from a trip to Africa, with her husband, Pat Conroy. She mentioned something about miserable heat. Rash and King were on a panel together Saturday, while I shared a stage with Debra Dean (The Madonnas of Leningrad).

Folks around these parts say the best thing about Oregon is that there’s something for everyone here—beaches, mountains, deserts; hiking, skiing, windsurfing. The line-up for Wordstock reflects some of that same diversity: Kathleen Dean Moore, Kim Stafford, John Rember, Yusef Komunyakaa, & Carole Radziwill. Talk about eating cake.


23 April 2006 | events, guest authors |

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