philip lopate

The A-List does a spelling bee

Article: The A-List does a spelling bee

Way back in my storied school days, spelling bees were awful experiences that invariably left me traumatized and speechless. It’s not that I can’t spell. I’m actually amazing at it, and when the other kids got their turns at the podium, I always knew all the words they were being asked, down to the very last syllable.

Alas, whenever it was my chance to go up and get asked a word of my own, I totally blanked. I completely freaked. And somehow it was always a word I wasn’t quite sure how to spell all of a sudden. So out of a combination of shaky nerves and rotten luck, I would lose every t-i-m-e.

Starting two years ago, the horror came back in an avalanche of misplaced vowels and wrong consonants when splashy spelling bees started being thrown at Diane von Furstenberg’s boutique, filled with literary lions battling it out for a paying audience to benefit clmp (the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses). And they asked me to join in! Here was my chance to disgrace myself all over again, in front of all sorts of big names, and I seized it with the will of an arrested child playing with the very same mental blocks.