D. A. Powell has hit the big time. He’s won awards, been the subject of adoring essays, publishes in very competitive venues, goes on reading tours. That sounds like the big time to me.
I don’t know how many books he sells. I hope he sells some. Doug is a poet. Poetry sales can’t hope to match a mid-list mystery novel. In poetry the big time isn’t big money. Still, he’s been noticed.
Doug found his feet as a poet in the Sonoma County poetry scene about the same time I did. He’s not much older than me, so we were peers. Weren’t we? Despite the smallness of the scene I don’t remember running into Doug much. I’m sure we had poet friends and acquaintances in common.
It’s not easy to get around Sonoma County without a car. I didn’t have access to one, except when my mother would drive me somewhere — and, for a brief period, I got to use her old car after she bought a newer one. I was fortunate in that the Russian River Writers Guild based its reading series in Sebastopol, where I lived, and getting to it was a walk of about ten minutes.
One of the organizers of the Russian River Writers Guild, Mo Hurley, has set up a blog for RRWG memorabilia. Going through a box of old papers last week I came across some copies of The Obligatory Hug, the RRWG newsletter. One of the Hugs wasn’t represented on the blog, so I snapped images of it and posted them.
In that Hug there’s a calendar of the reading series Doug Powell ran at a cafe in downtown Santa Rosa. I was never invited to read there, but many of the names are of people I knew well. I don’t remember if I ever attended. (See above about lack of transportation.) Since these poets would read in Sebastopol, maybe arranging to get to Santa Rosa didn’t seem necessary.
In other words, Doug and I never really hung out. As he began to make a name for himself in the national poetry scene, I took for granted that Doug had no memory of me.
Besides the RRWG blog Mo has set up a memorial blog for Marianne Ware, another RRWG stalwart, a self-declared mother figure for SoCo writers, and an instructor at Santa Rosa’s community college. Marianne was a sweetheart, and a fine performer of her own, often hilarious, writing.
Reading through reminiscences at the Ware blog, I was surprised to find myself name-checked. By D. A. Powell.
[Marianne Ware, Doug writes, was o]ne of the first of many passionate and gifted poets I met in Sonoma County. Donna Champion brought me to the Russian River Writers Guild for a holiday party, and introduced me to Maureen Hurley, Glenn Ingersoll, Paul Mariah and Marianne. I was nervous & young, and whatever poem I shared with the group that night was, I'm sure, crap. But Marianne, a gracious and nurturing presence, smiled and told me how wonderful the poem was.
Wait, I remember the poem now! It's in a drawer somewhere, if I haven't burned it. Yes, it truly was crap.
I remember reading a manifesto Doug wrote, championing a new poetics — Badism. Write crap! Don’t be ashamed. Own it.
Maybe, by 2010 when he wrote the note about Marianne, Doug had eschewed his old Badism beliefs. After all, he’d hit the big time with good stuff!