A Queer Vietnamese-Houstonian-New Yorker Writer musing about the arts and absurdities when not screenwriting or playwrighting

The Best American Poetry Reading 2017   at New School: Getting an Awkward Look from Joyce Carol Oates

At the New School, I listened to a barrage of American poets:  from Dan Albergotti, Mary Jo Bang, David Barber, Bruce Bond, Jericho Brown, Allison Cobb, Carl Dennis, Vievee Francis, Jeffrey Harrison, W. J. Herbert, David Brendan Hopes, John James, Rodney Jones, Meg Kearney, John Koethe, Jamaal May, Judson Mitcham, John Murillo, Joyce Carol Oates, Sharon Olds, Matthew Olzmann, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Robert Pinsky, Taije Silverman, Emily Van KleyCrystal Williams, and to Monica Youn. (Whew!)

Jericho Brown is a notable visitor, who I had seen read before about 4-5 years back at a Boldface Writing Conference at the University of Houston.

The event introduced me to poets who had not entered my Mental Reading List consciousness.

I approached Joyce Carol Oates through a barrage of fans greeting to the poets and deliberated whether I should climb the stage to save her the trouble of looking down on me. Right when Oates made eye contact with me to smile and say, “Hello,” an autograph person got in the way, cutting me off to ask Oates to sign her book. So Oates forgot about me for a second, signing the woman’s book, before turning back to me, looking down from me from the stage.

She shook my hand and said, “Nice to meet you.”

“I remember studying your short story!” I was referring to her stranger danger short story “Where You Going, Where You’ve Been,” which is infamous study material in literary classes.

And she kind of gave me an expectant glance, maybe processing what I just said. I realized that she might be wondering if I have something for her to sign. Maybe, I was better off buying the poetry collection book for her to autograph, instead of just going up to her and giving her a random compliment.

And I thought, great. Way to blow it. Joyce Carol Oates will just remember you as the annoying fangirl who had nothing for her to sign.

View this post on Instagram

The @joycecaroloates3146. #newschoolwrites #poetry #poet

A post shared by Carol Cao (@maximininalist) on

Poetry inspirations and progress of writing ideas after reading:

  • Writing about celebrities
    • Created a folder for celebrity-related poems
      • New Draft: “[Making a Fool of Myself Before] Joyce Carol Oates”
        • Can’t forget about writing the verse where I observed her using a pencil/pen to trace the words in the program’s poetry book on her lap.
      • Continuing Old Draft: “Apologies to Elizabeth Bishop”
  • Writing about current events (inspired by Dan Albergotti’s poem chilling “Weapons Discharge Report”)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: