For several years I have been a member of an excellent poetry critique group. We meet weekly and dish about each others lives and recent poetry. We are tough and tender by turns. And once in a while, we review a full manuscript for one of the members. Here’s what happened this week.
We had reserved the one large table at the restaurant where we meet. Because it was a manuscript review, six of our seven members were there. We had lots of paper to shuffle. We needed that big table. So, apparently, did the family party that had been seated at 4:30. They were still there at 6:30. We scowled en masse and agreed to accept a less spacious arrangement of two small tables pushed together. The two were unequal in height so one had to be careful not to set a wine glass or tea-cup on the seam. We ordered. Jane’s wine came and was very nearly vinegar. No problem. Another selection was brought. Plates and bowls of food arrived and perched on top of slabs of poetry. I managed not to spill my soup on the manuscript.
Because the place closes at nine, we sped through the work, noting very briefly which poems we agreed were excellent and having hurried debates about those we did not agree on. Either these needed more work or they didn’t quite fit the theme of the collection. (NB: most of the new poetry collections I see reflect a theme–loss, relationships, desire, etc.) As we raced toward completion, the waiter brought our bills, six individual tickets. And we handed over cash or cards. He had no trouble with the cash, but the cards–well, not so good. Two of us had exactly the same order and another two had exactly the same order but for an extra side of toasted focaccia. One of us had only coffee. It took that waiter about six tries to get the bills straight. He must have said “I’m so sorry” fourteen times.
Never again! We all left feeling like laundry in a spin dryer. From now on we will revert to a better plan, one we have used in the past. We meet at someones home, bring potluck contributions and never have to deal with wait staff who have caught a brain flu that leaves them, and us, feeling exhausted and a little bit lost.