"Your poems have given a rhythm and a sound and a feel to the way life unfolds and encircles." A beautiful letter to Hoa Nguyen, whose broadside of her poem "A Quake" are available to those who purchase a 2014 paperback subscription. http://wavepoetry.com/collections/subscriptions/products/paperback-subscription-2014
The coastal shores of South Carolina came into view and memories of the West coast were flitting about with the sea breezes of on-coming Charleston. How long since the dramas and drudgeries of Southern California, the embellishments of memory itself. But indeed, it had been in the ballpark of some 9,000+ miles since I’d last seen that tender blue. I recalled my correspondence regarding a last glimpse of the Pacific: waxing lyrical on its undertow as a sort of mascot for our endeavor—the charm & levity of its greeting concealing the integrity & persistence of its cause.
I admittedly entered a state of leisure once the sand was again in my toes (and all over the car). Charleston’s energy, the severity of its historical glare, and the splendor of the Southern city in full bloom left me bewitched! and feeling in need of fanny-pack. This didn’t mean I couldn’t take time out to talk to some book folk though..
Down on King St. it seemed to be all happenin’. Blue Bicycle Books was front & center as the place to drop in for used, rare, and local picks. One thing that struck me about this Southern belle was being surrounded by the smoothed edges of the previously-owned and the rustic imagery of old, maritime South, yet feeling perfectly integrated within the crispness of a very conscious modern design. After ogling the hardbound Faulkner, I was leafing about the new books up front. Local history was on parade, but I was digging the local poets. I realized the edition in my hands was a new release from the manager perched in front of me, Sara Peck, and we got into a little on the small press world.
As much relief as I got from being by the water again, it was time to return to the interior and trade in those palms for pines.
Imagine this: a place where a major, quarter century-long educational experiment lasted until 1957, then 57 years later I meet a man who landed there for a Rainbow Gathering in 1987, and now I’m pulling Wave spines out from the shelves at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC. The math may seem garbled, but incidents in Asheville have a way of appearing a little witchy. Malaprop’s—taking up, in a way, where Black Mountain left off and perhaps encouraging, in part, such Rainbow gatherers—is a model haven for the writing and arts communities, and community itself, on a local and global level. Started in 1982 by a political exile from Hungary, the priority has always been inclusion—rejecting any level of censorship to create a space where voices from the periphery are exalted and all are immune in the exploration of free expression. Appropriately heady I realize, but I also recognize that these booksellers, buyers, and events organizers really know what they’re doing. They’ve created a vibe, as it were, that draws the entire spectrum from the curious to the purposeful to those in need of inspiration—nobody seeming left unsatisfied.
I sputtered up the Blue Ridge Mountains, through the fog and some pretty hairy switchbacks—making a campfire or two and enjoying the quietude of ancient geology—until I came back down to flatter planes and roads in Old Dominion and eventually made a surprise visit (for me) to the greater Richmond area. Equally a surprise was walking into Fountain Books in the Shockoe Slip district downtown. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many signed editions in my life. Owner Kelly Justice was in, fresh off a handful of big readings and sounding both relieved and raring to go for another of their deluge of events. With Amazon operating two large distribution centers in the Richmond area, keeping the doors open at an indie coming up on 40 years old is no small success. Fountain Books looks good doing it too.
As I had now made it to the sticky convergence zone of the Mid-Atlantic, it was safe to say the South was in my past—glad as I was to have seen and learned as much as I had. The highways pointed North from now on and I tell you the bookstores keep coming.