Feast of Friends – River Styx Art and Literary Feast at Duff’s
by Matt Freeman
Thanks to my wonderful and generous friend Lorenzo, a fine poetess from the West Country, I was able to attend the River Styx Art and Literary Feast at Duff’s last Monday and hobnob with the great literati of St Louis. Upon my nearly white shirt I showed up with the evening’s conversation piece: an incongruous gold medal for first place in a film contest which was my dear compensation for teaching a poetry workshop at the VA. The crowd was lively.
As appetizers were served everyone milled about with their drinks; I had the fortune to be served a diet cola by the omnipresent D while talking to two very talented writers from UMSL. Young Z replenished the table and I was happy to hear he’s doing well and moving into a new place. He was assisted by A—who knows as much about literature as anyone in the room and is never anything but honest. I made a little plate to put upon the table which Lorenzo had secured when suddenly dinner was announced. How fast time flies when conducting intercourse with such interesting characters.
Table by table we followed into the back room to partake of the buffet: homemade pizza, excellent salad, gumbo and tasty rolls. I literally bumped elbows with new and old friends from the Poetry Center and we all commented faithfully upon the fare, which had been prepared under the direction of Duff’s longtime chef who is noted well for having worked for many years with the Grateful Dead. It was difficult to eat too fast as the conversation flowed every which way around the room. While I was rather full, I must admit that I surreptitiously hung back in the corner and ate three servings of dessert.
Having listened the whole time to skillful jazz played by members of Jazz St Louis, it was now time for the literary portion to commence. We were in for a treat. Unfortunately for all, Aimee Nezhukumatahil was unable to make it in from New York. So after hearing a very talented young high school prodigy the accident proved to be felicitous as Adrian Matejka filled in. The youngish poet mixed high literature with pop culture and delivered all with animation and the verses flowed over us like a welcome rain. Geoff Schmidt, a fiction writer, soothed us with his tale of a final cigarette. I confess that I did sneak out back for a quick smoke during the rendition and was surprised to find Karen Duffy already out there. I suppose we were thinking the same thing.
Soon Richard Newman got on the mic and gave thanks to all. An especially poignant moment took shape as he delivered a well-deserved bouquet to Karen, who has been a charming patron of the arts for many years and is finally and sadly selling her famed restaurant, where so many friends have been made and readings planned. We were all hoping that Monday was not Duff’s swan song.
As all formality was dispensed with and dues paid, the crowd of lettered folks did what lovers of literature have always done best: talked to each other and enjoyed their drinks. There was a whole lot of love in the room and people from the Writers’ Guild mixed with River Styx staff; I was so happy to see Left Bank represented by my dear dear friend. Alas! My gold medal began to hang heavy and Lorenzo listed to homeward. Goodbye to M and K and T and E, goodbye to J and S; goodbye to Z and A; we hope to meet at Duff’s again.