Journal Notes on Boston Globe Book Festival, 11-20-82

This journal excerpt is a snapshot from my early journey on the writer's path. I would go to where the action was to learn more about how writing and publishing are done. In this case it was a chance to see authors only familiar to me from their books or media appearances. I wanted to get into the living stream and soak it up. In those days, '70s and '80s, I often went to events in Boston, Cambridge, and Worcester, Mass.---readings, book fairs, literary conferences, author talks with book-signings at bookstores. Experience by experience, I found my way and began to feel like I belonged in the community of writers.---PM

Today at the Globe Book Festival, I met Paul Mariani after he gave a talk about his biography of William Carlos Williams. He read from the book with a lot of power, like a poetry reading (he is a poet). Good stuff. Nice guy. I told him I had seen the feature on him on CBS morning news about six months ago. He said, "You saw that?" I said it was a good piece of TV work on a living breathing American poet. In his talk he compared the Paterson/Rutherford, New Jersey, area to Lowell and other Massachusetts factory towns. I bought a paperback copy of the biography and had him sign it. He looked at me intently when I said my name. "Are we related?" he asked. "Some part of my family dropped the 'i' a few generations back." I said, "No, my name is spelled 'ion,' not 'ian.'" When I saw him later at the book-signing counter, I told him I probably would not be writing poetry if in college I hadn't read Williams's talking bibliography, "I Wanted to Write a Poem." Mariani said Kerouac really liked Williams, too, when I told him I was from Lowell. 

Other sidelights of the festival:

Kurt Vonnegut hanging around the back of a hall where his wife, Jill Krementz, had just finished talking about her new photography book. He had a tan raincoat over his arm and was smoking a cigarette.

Francesco Scavullo, fashion photographer, surrounded by people waiting for him to autograph books, looked just like he did on the Today Show recently.

Maxine Kumin giving a poetry reading in Poe Hall. I was not impressed by her reading style. She had a big crowd of women and women's college-looking students. Kumin is taller and thinner than I expected from having seen pictures of her. She has an easygoing manner at the podium.

Famous Amos, the chocolate cookie magnate, doing his celebrity thing at one booth. He was there on behalf of a literacy volunteers project. Amos handed out cookies and sold kazoos.

I met a few small publishers, Phil Zuckerman of Applewood Books and Sam Cornish of Fiction, Literature Bookstore, as well as the distribution manager for Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance and the publisher of "Stories," a fiction periodical in Boston. She had 1300 mss. the first year, and published about 10 stories. I spoke with two people from the local chapter of the Writers Union. Later, I listened to a panel discussion about the state of publishing in which nothing unusual was said. There are big and small publishers, period.