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KLRIJ-TV, Austin PBS, creates innovative television that inspires and educates not just in Austin, but throughout all of Texas. KLRU explores politics with Texas Monthly Talks; makes learning fun with The Biscuit Brothers and Central Texas Gardener; and showcases live music with Austin City Limits. Look for these KLRU programs on your local PBS stations. kiru tv and beyond hall of Stark Gallery. On the second night, Ida Vitale read her poems and stood aside as the translator recited English versions. At one point the back door flew open, and a stout dancer dressed in feathered headdress and bells came up the aisle, only to be chased off by the poet Eduardo Espina, host of the reading. The dancer, a huge, 6foot-5 brave, was part of the AlabamaCoushatta tribe, whom we had hired to dance outside. But rain forced them indoors into the cavernous Flag Room, a hall full of sofas and huge marble globes studded with flags. Students piled in to watch the rain dance, the slow, mincing steps of a harvest dance, the gentle, bell-jingling shuffle of the women, and finally a round dance that we all joined. In the afternoons, beards and ponytails mingled with cadet uniforms and sorority girls. A folk singer slouched in the corner of the plaza and twanged away, with a few onlookers stopping to tilt a head and wonder what it was all about. Boots were everywhere Don Graham’s worn-out boots; Mark Busby’s ropers and blue jeans; Seth Prichard, the story teller, had on fullquill ostrich specials. The rest of us were in sneakers or sandals. Susan Bright’s long, ashy hair cascaded down her shoulders and over her cloth book bag as she held court. Her hand was up much of the time to quibble over facts or to fill gaps at the “Black Southwest” panel. Students eyed her curiously; debate is rare in classes here. Suddenly everyone had a point to make, and the students began to relax, to open up. Why not? The festival came on the eve of the elections and the turnover of Congress to the Democrats. Robert Gates, our outgoing president, had rammed through some far-reaching reforms that had made A&M more attractive. Not only had he hired 400 new faculty, the student body now has far more AfricanAmerican and Latino students than at any time in its history. Morale was up, and Gates was just big enough to talk back to conservatives and boosters of Ole Sarge and the Aggieland of the past. He could move the rock a good way to the center, but he couldn’t reach down to the middle managers as fast as he wanted. Now he was leaving for the Pentagon to clean up after Rumsfeld, but leaving behind a work in progress. That, too, had its effect on how we felt. There was something crisp and clean in the air those three days, with kids beaming and running off to hear more writers. After Linda Hogan finished reading, a line of young women holding newly bought copies of The Woman Who Watches over the World formed. She spent time with each, and their faces told you everything. Others waited to talk to Doug Peacock at the Wednesday night reception, and students formed a circle around him. When it was over, we hadn’t quite transformed the trim lawns and stately oaks into a carnival ground, but we had succeeded in launching a very public affair that spilled over from the campus into College Station and Bryan. We used bars and amphitheaters to accommodate the bands, and the little Revolution Caf was jammed with students listening to Paul Ruffin’s stories. Sitting back in the corner of the bar, peering through chinks in the crowd, I had to admitit was like Austin. It could have been the Cactus Caf or the Broken Spoke on a regular night. It could have been away, but it wasn’tit was right here in Aggieland, and we will do it again. Paul Christensen is a poet and essayist who teaches modern literature and creative writing at Texas A&M. His new book of poems, Hard Country, won this year’s “Violet Crown” award for best book of poems awarded by the Writers’ League of Texas. JUST OUT: BLACK TUESDAY’S CHILD by Donald Mace Williams “The author brings to mind the small town insights of a Horton Foote … and the insightful study of a gifted musician that Frank Conroy memora bly presented in Body and Soul.” Elroy Bode, author of In a Special Light “A noteworthy Texas novel” Dr. Alex Hunt in Texas Books in Review River’s Bend Press Also or from the author at 806-656-0213 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 1, 2006