Winding down in Iowa City

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The week progressed in Iowa City with a grand wine tasting after class on Monday at the beautiful Prairie Lights Book Store cafe. A glass of wine to wash down the meal didn’t hurt. It is such a popular event because the food is quite wonderful and varied. For me it was dinner for the second year in a row.

Tuesday after dinner at Marik’s Noodle shop with Jane, I went back to the book store for an evening reading by two of the teachers for the week, one who returned all the way from New Zealand to participate in the summer program.

On Wednesday evening there was an open mike at a store called Beadology which sells stunning jewelry and beads. Last year this event was so packed, it was difficult to find a seat and so many signed up to read, they barely fit all the names on the board. This year the attendance was more sparse, but 2 of my classmates and I had signed up to read. We sat together and each took a turn at the microphone and the audience kindly clapped for all the readers equally.

Thursday evening after class we walked to a red brick building, which looked like an old church no longer used as such, a few blocks from the campus. It is appropriately named, Old Brick. Once inside we gathered at the round table with our teacher’s name on a card in the center and we spent a little time chatting until we were summoned by table to the line for a Middle Eastern buffet dinner.

Friday the week long class is over and we bid our farewells and promise to keep in touch and the teacher tells us he’ll send the handout he forgot to give us and he tells me he has begun writing me a letter, which he will send off and two months later I have received nothing.

Saturday morning it is pouring rain and the blue plastic poncho again serves me well. I arrive at the gold domed Capitol Building for the registration for the short weekend class, poetry in prose get registered, collect another tee shirt, this one a small which I plan to send to my daughter, and find one of my classmates from the previous week also there but for a different class. The hot coffee takes the edge off of the rainy day and we get ushered into an auditorium for a welcome speech by one of the long time teachers who advises us that many who come to Iowa City fall in love with the place, but be sure you have a job before you move here. After going over all the basics we are sent off to our classes in Schaeffer Hall, just a short walk through the still teeming rain.

At lunch break a handful of us file across the street to a small strip mall where there is another noodle shop.

It is amazing how as people read their work and reveal who they are, my admiration for them as talented writers grows. The teacher says we will re-convene at ten in the morning and finish the class at four in the afternoon. Back at the hotel I phone my friend Rose Marie in Austin to say that we can meet at the Bread Garden Market across from the Hotel Vetro on Sunday before she goes to the registration and dinner for the class she will begin for the following week. She says that would be great.

Sunday morning I climb up Jefferson Street hill and walk to St. Mary’s church for the 7:30 a.m. Mass, then stop for coffee and a scone at a little restaurant nearby, before heading back to the campus.

We are trying to absorb all the information coming to us from the teacher and from each other and taking notes and signing our e-mail addresses and we leave the building because the maintenance people would like to leave too, so we sit in front of the old capitol building with our final thoughts on the class and people begin to drift off back to the lives they came from. At 4:15 I too stand, say my goodbyes and wander down the walk, cross Clinton and head to the pedestrian walkway and find my way to the Bread Market.

After seeing one lady from the weekend class with her family, I walk around and finally see my friend from Texas. We hug and sit. She has a soda and I a little fruit salad. Her Facebook friend, Bonnie from North Dakota, joins us. We talk at length about both the Austin International Poetry Festival and Round Top.

When it is nearly time for them to go into Hotel Vetro for the registration and buffet dinner, we part in hope to meet again at another poetry festival. I head slowly back up to the old capitol and down the back walk toward my hotel. On the way I see 2 of the weekend classmates and they shout something into the wind and I wave but do not know what was said. Gina crosses the lawn to be sure I was okay since it’s been a few hours since the class dispersed, I explained about meeting a friend and stopping for dinner. She and Stephen were going for dinner now. Bye, bye and travel safely.

Monday morning in the hotel breakfast room I see Jim, one of my classmates from 2014. It takes a moment for him to remember me and we chat a bit. He is just beginning a class and I look out at the Iowa River and think about my return trip to Ohio in a few hours.

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