I read tonight at Raconteur Books, in Metuchen, New Jersey -- a great little hotbed of culture, featuring new and used books, DVDs, and a universe of events from concerts to literary readings to arm wrestling tournaments (which seem to be universally won by Alex, the burly owner of the shop). In the store are portraits of Bukowski, Yeats,
and Frost, among others. When the reading starts, the lights go down and the reader's framed in a couple of spots, one of them blue, so there's a jazz-club feel to the podium. My new Rutgers students were there in abundance, even though they're not actually my students yet, and I love them already. They're sweet and smart and full of stories: a grade-school field trip to Emily Dickinson's house that's haunted a poet ever since, an upcoming summer volunteering for WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) in Costa Rica, and one fellow's the grandson of the Dominican dictator Trujillo's cook. It says a lot that I don't work there yet and I already think I have a phenomenal job. There were also a couple of other generations of (former) Rutgers students represented, including a woman who took the same advanced poetry course I will be teaching fifty years ago, with John Ciardi. She remembered the location and number of the room in which it met. And that, after the students had all turned in their poems anonymously the first week, Professor Ciardi read them over and said, Well, we'll just start out by reading Yeats.