Is there a particular age where wonder leaves us? I always mused when I was younger about the idea of abandonment of art. What happens in a person’s life to give it up? Is it gradual or quitting cold turkey? You’ve seen it too? Guitar perched in a corner, collecting dust. Sketchbook long ago traded in for company-owned computer. Thatch of music pages where notes titter across the cage in silence. I started this blog in what now feels like could have been someone else’s life. How funny that a decade can bring that kind of distance from the person we were, the dreams we fed in secret. Yet, I am still in many ways the same. Still wrestling time with poetry from the maw of paid work, except now, the paid work is writing. But for the first eight months of the year, my proverbial well harbored only caked mud. And then, I opened a door. Discovered a “drink me” vial that transported me all the way to a life-changing place. I left revived and reassured.
—I read those words now—written in 2019. The world we inhabit is a changed place.
Here I am, stuck in pandemic quarantine at home, much like you.
Everything looks different and yet I tipped my hat this past August in memory of boarding a plane last year to attend “poetry super camp” as my best friend called it, but really known as Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. A conference for writers with bread in its name—is that what first caught my eye? I jest when I say that’s why I applied. But, it did endear me to the conference off the bat (even after learning about the mountain range that gave the conference its moniker). The intensity of the time—that focus of intent and vision for 10 days changed me. Because I knew life would change afterwards and this was my one chance to go all in.
Vermont holds a particular place for me—it speaks to me of poetry, yes, and creameries and winding roads flanked by green trees and green fields that break into golden and copper song in autumn. I sometimes willfully don’t like to learn about a place before going because I don’t want to let others opinions or experiences color my own. I want to be awash in my own senses of the place and so it was at Bread Loaf.
Every day held craft talks in genres that might not be the one I relate to most but in having all of us in one space allowed this cool cross-pollination where poets learned tactics from fiction writers on POV and fiction / narrative non-fiction writers considered how concision of poets might tighten their work in interesting ways.
Plus! I met so many fascinating people who became friends on the dance floor, over late night conversations with gingery Vermont hard cider, from meals spent in the cafeteria, or even from spying a writer pull out their bag of matcha and whisk at the hot drink station. I found community and shared work aloud, battled on the page in edits after workshop critiques, holed up in the library continuing a story read aloud by one of the fellows.
I camped out on the cavernous front porch in a rocking chair. Set out in the meadow of many wonders across the street, stepping first through the tiny gate in the rock wall, as if playing a character from Star Dust. I cackled aloud on the hayride. Got dolled up for the book signing on the lawn. Spent moments locked in contemplation. Clinked wine glasses in a tiny impromptu reading with new friends in their living room. Hunkered in darkness of the laundry room reading and listening. We were never done sharing work. Encouraging others with snaps or claps.
I am landlocked as we all are right now. I so wish I could return once more to Bread Loaf. And so, let us go. Our imaginations can take us wherever we want to venture even if our bodies are bound and mouths masked. I’m grateful for the experience and the mighty small team that pull all the details together so it can bloom fresh ideas while creating a community of creative expression and kinship.