Monday, February 7, 2011

AWP Summary: A BLAST!

I rarely go to AWP, mostly because my life doesn't allow it, and also partly because I've always liked a bit of space from writers and large writer-oriented events.  But something was different this year in that I felt that I wanted to go and reconnect with writers, something I hadn't fully realized until I was there, right in the middle of a monstrosity of a book fair.  I loved seeing people and meeting new people, of course, but what I really valued were the intimate conversations about writing that I had with so many friends.  Because AWP was so much fun this year, every night I wrote down who I talked to and who I met.  My list grew to over 75 writers by the time I left the conference!  Some highlights were:

-Lunch with an old friend, Louise Mathias, and realizing that we have grown-up together as poets
-Our Blackbird/Diode offsite reading and meeting Bob Hicok!
-Laughing at the bookfair with Randy Mann and Miguel Murphy
-Meeting Patty Paine from Diode who gave us these gift bags filled with camel keychains and camel magnets
-Talking with the Blackbird people like ever gracious Mary Flinn and Jeff Lodge
-Dinner with an always amazing mind, G.C. Waldrep
-Chatting with Ed Skoog and Joshua Rivkin in the lounge while we skipped all the panels and had our own "panel"
-Meeting Sarah Vap who reeks of goodness and beautiful hair
-Trolling the bookfair with an old friend, Rick Bursky, who had me laughing for hours
-Lunch with old friend, Jennifer Chang who I often get mixed up with (lately more than ever since her amazing poems are everywhere)

I can think of 10 more highlights, but I'm beginning to feel like I am simply dropping names so I'll stop now.   The short conversations with people at the bookfair were great, but the one-on-one coffees, lunches, dinners, etc. that I had were the most enlightening.  Friends helped me to bring forth out of my sub-consciousness my relationship with poetry and writing, some things I have thought loosely about in the past, but not fully.

The biggest thing that I realized is that I don't aspire to much in poetry, really, especially compared to others that I spoke with.  But what I aspire to do is to write the best poems that I can (I think every poet does anyway), and to be moderately well-received critically, kind of like an unknown Indie actor or a low-budget Indie film.  I also want to live a life with the poems of others.  I want to live with art and poetry in my mind as much as I can.  And every day, I want to push myself to be better than I was yesterday, either as a writer or as a thinker.

The other thing I learned while polling friends throughout the conference is that many poets actually feel "joy" when they write poetry.  I hadn't ever thought about this before until two poets told me that they felt this way (and then many more when asked later), which made me think about how I feel, which is the opposite--completely "tortured".  But then again so does Matthew Zapruder, which doesn't make me feel so horrible.

All in all, it was a great AWP for me on so many levels and I feel so fortunate to have been able to participate this year.  Maybe I will head to Chicago next year?


  1. wish i could remember who said this but someone once told me it was best to have aspirations for our poems, and not ourselves (as poets). that made a lot of sense to me from a mental health/happiness standpoint :) also we were inspired by your organization. the whole thing was a sort of an exercise in disorganized, dazed wandering around for us probably do to a disorganized start (packing furiously and jumping in the car way before we were expecting to leave). thus, I missed a lot ! but so glad that despite this you and I got to connect.

  2. Louise, that is wonderful--I love that. It's like that "what do you want your poems to do?" question that I sometimes think about. For me, it is probably just "truth".

    I was really organized this year because I think my daily life is full of chaos that I didn't want to miss anything--feel so lucky to get to go to something like this.

  3. I don't feel "joy" while writing poetry, either. It's more like a frenetic anxiety to say something, anything. It's a little tiring, but in a good way. Afterwards I usually feel something like a "post-poem-pardum" (for some reason, I feel a little depressed after completing a first draft). But my poems are rarely joyful, so that might explain it. Maybe I should try to write my next poem with a hand pointed toward joy and beauty, just to see if my experience is any different.

  4. Glad to hear you had a nice time, Victoria. Just learned today that attendence topped 9000+ this year. But your comment confirmed that despite these numbers, it's possible to have an intimate experience within a multitude.

  5. When I write, I feel like I'm fighting with the words more than I feel tortured. Not until I read your chat with Rachel Zucker did I realize others out there felt a similar way about writing. I only recently admitted this idea to myself, so the idea is brand new and very shiny to me. Deborah @ 32poems