This past week I had the pleasure of spending three days at Cayuga Community College in Auburn, NY. The invitation came about as a result of Garrison Keillor's reading of my poem, "Linguini," back in February. The professor who brings in the poets heard the poem, looked me up online, and contacted me. We then agreed on dates. The picture you see above is the banner that was displayed at the college's website.
I drove up last Sunday and checked into my hotel. My host then invited me to his house for dinner that night. We were joined by another couple and their son. All great company. Prior to dinner, my hostess said that she'd prepared linguini with clam sauce. Unfortunately and much to my chagrin, I had to tell her that I can't eat clams. She looked a bit crestfallen and said, "But the poem . . . ," meaning that in the poem I specifically mention clams as something delectable. Well, they are delectable—to other people, but not to me! (I plan to use that story from now on whenever someone asks to what extent my poems are autobiographical.) So I had peppers and mushrooms on my linguini and was very happy. An excellent salad and homemade apple pie for dessert.
The next morning my host picked me up and we drove five minutes to the campus where I gave a reading to approximately 30 people. Then another English professor took me to lunch. Later that afternoon my host took me to Seneca Falls where we visited the Women's Hall of Fame. I read the "Declaration of Sentiments" and walked through the museum. I was filled with admiration for our foremothers who so courageously cleared a path for the rest of us.
That night my host and his department took me out for dinner. These people really know how to treat a visiting poet! Every detail was attended to, every courtesy extended.
The next morning I visited a creative writing class. The professor had asked each student to write a poem based on one of mine. It was a really cool assignment and yielded wonderful results. Students read their poems to me and we talked a bit about the next level of revision. They asked lots of good questions. Later I met with the Poetry Club. Oddly, only one student showed up, but we had a good time. He read me several of his poems and I gave him some tips on getting them published which he said was his current goal. On the way back to the hotel, my host and I paid a brief visit to the grave of Harriet Tubman, located in one of the prettiest cemeteries I've ever visited.
Dinner again that night, this time with the professor who would be leading me up to the extension campus the next morning. That drive was along pretty country roads, about 45 minutes. At the Fulton campus I gave a second reading, this time to around 40 people. Then I headed home, happy to have had such a wonderful time and wishing for more college visits.