Before leaving Syracuse on Thursday I had lunch with my old friend, and former teacher, Michael Burkard. Michael is on the poetry faculty of the M.F.A. Program at Syracuse, and he had a profound impact on me when I studied with him. He seemed to think about writing differently than any other writer I’d met; as I think his work reveals, his process is informed by intuition, experimentation and inquiry. He has a wonderful ear, too, which inspired me to pay more attention to musical ideas in my own work. The first stories I wrote for my novel, in fact, were written for his Prose Poetry class. Michael was kind enough to bring me a copy of his new book, lucky coat anywhere, which was published last year by Nightboat Books.
I left Syracuse on Thursday afternoon and drove on to Buffalo and Talking Leaves Books. I’d heard great things about Talking Leaves – from Michael, among others – and the store lived up to the hype. Owner Jonathon Welch has acquired a great collection of books published by independent presses, and I was also impressed by the store’s selection of literary journals. I was glad to have the opportunity to read from my work and meet some other local writers.