The Impresario of Readings

A Friend, of Some Sort, to Poets

By Ron McFarland

She could not, would not fly. This poet, whose books boasted such titles as Cruelty and Killing Floor and most recently Sin was, it seemed, afraid to fly. At that moment twenty-odd years ago, she embodied the very definition of edginess and wrath and poetic violence. But she would not fly.

Already having invited her to the University of Idaho for a week as Distinguished Visiting Writer, we laid out the extra do-re-mi for her train ticket from Tucson, which was considerable, as one does not simply hop aboard an Amtrak and beeline it from Tucson to Moscow. One spends a night in a rather pricey hotel in San Francisco, and then one arrives the next evening around midnight in Spokane, about eighty-five miles north of Moscow, where one is met by the impresario of readings (me) and the creative writing professor, Tina.

So there we were at midnight in the Spokane Amtrak station, realizing neither of us really knew exactly what this poet looked like except that she was a proud conglomeration of Irish, African American, Japanese, and two or three possible varieties of Native American. We made a couple of false starts before there-she-was, pretty much as she looked on the back of her books.

And furthermore she was, she said, “famished.” She was starving, or perhaps even “freeking starved.” So here we were on a Sunday night or very early Monday morning in Spokane, and our distinguished and admired and hungry and angry poet needed to be fed. Not surprisingly, the better eateries were shut down, so we rambled up Division till we got to an open-all-night chain, where the poet ordered a salad of some disappointing sort, which I paid for, and she ate a little of, and we turned south toward Moscow at around one in the a.m.

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