“Nothing like a few elegies to get a party going,” Matthew Dickman said, to begin his poetry reading, which was the opening reading of the Vermont College of Fine Arts Postgraduate Writers’ Conference. I’m here to immerse myself in the writing life for a week, along with about 100 other writers, including participants and faculty. I went downstairs to the dining room for dinner, sat at a table with two women I’ve never met, and within 5 minutes we were deep into a discussion of our writing life — what we’re working on, who we’re working with here, what books we’ve written, all the books we want to write.
If you don’t know who Matthew Dickman is check him out. A young, uniquely imaginative and funny poet. He read a series of elegiac poems from his forthcoming book about his older brother. The elegies actually were a great way to start the party of a week of writing, talking about writing, being with writers, workshopping writing, because they were excellent poems, delivered with grace and humor, and he thanked us all for listening to him.
At one point in his reading, Matthew asked who in the room reads the poet Bob Kaufman. Four people raised their hands. “Oh wonderful,” he said. “Now the rest of you can go google him and read his poems and your lives will be changed forever. You’ll be Kaufmaned.” So that’s what I’m going to do next.