Sicily – September 21, 2015

Good Morning, Erice. I slept well, which is the point and, knowing jetlag, probably a one-time event. Breakfast features croissants with nametags – ‘con cioccolato,’ ‘con crema,’ and ‘empty.’ Also, plenty of rich, dark caffeine.

After a shower, I push off on a walk on the ramparts. Erice’s ancient origins and strategic impregnability are everywhere in evidence, from Norman battlements to recycled Roman columns in churches. As in many Sicilian municipalities, there is a church on every corner, though typical of most medieval towns, there are no corners, not in the ninety degree sense. From absolutely every vantage point an extravagant vista appears. Because Erice is 2,500 feet above sea level and a ‘crow-flies’ four kilometers from the sea, the landscape she overlooks is infinite – Mount Cofano and the sweep of the Zingaro Peninsula to the north and the Egadi Islands and the salt marshes of Trapani to the southwest. Breathtaking is the worthless adjective that comes to mind. It’s cloudy this morning, but I imagine on a cloudless day you could also see Mount Etna to the east and Africa to the west.

Today, we meet as a workshop for the first time. Thank you, Jesus. For me, it is always hard to sit with the anticipation. I have read the work of my compatriots and despair/gloat. Neither of these feelings do me credit nor has any basis in reality. Patricia Hampl leads the workshop. After two hours, the workshop feels like a ‘we.’ We trust her.

Our whole Bread Loaf group, poets, prose writers, and staff, meet for wine and cheese in a hidden garden overlook not far from the hotel. It feels like real conviviality, not socially anxious, jetlagged hubbub. Lights come on the land below, a twinkling panorama from an angel’s perspective. A violin / keyboard duo plays sweet and hokey music. I am both delighted and awkward.

Before dinner, two instructors read their work in a classroom: Chris Castellani from his forthcoming novel about Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo and David Rivard his poetry, most appealing to me, a poem about Owsley Stanley, the 60s ‘King of LSD.’

The workshop then splits into four smaller group and adjourns to four restaurants for delicious food, notably impossibly thin and perfectly grilled swordfish filets and a silken lemon sorbetto. More chatter, even at a table where no one is drinking wine. I’m repeating myself, I’m sure.

I yearn for modest repose. Just a little fucking shut-eye, for chrissake. At 1am I awake, thrash a while, and finally open the laptop in an attempt to coax weariness from writing. I check my email for bullshit, only to find astonishment. TriQuarterly has seen as essay of mine in the recent Post Road magazine and asks me to submit to their January 2016 issue. I never.

It’s going on five o’clock.

 

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