The two previous posts have focused on notes from two of the more intellectually stimulating panels I attended at the conference. But, if you’ve ever attended ANY sort of conference, you know that there’s only so much note-taking and intellectual focus one can have before needing something different.
One “something different” was a wonderful panel featuring Kim Addonizio and Cornelius Eady discussing how to collaborate and move poetry into the greater realm of the world. It was fun to hear Kim Addonizio share some of her poetry read in collaboration with other writers and musicians and detail how she decided to create the CD on her own after her publisher denied her request to include the CD in the back of her newest book. She even handed out free broadsides to the audience! Cornelius Eady also spoke about poetry and music and played an excerpt from his band’s new release. He also gave me my two favorite ideas/quotes of the session:
“Poetry is not a fragile thing” – in reference to the fact that it can hold its own out in the world and in conjunction with other arts.
“Take a risk – if you want to collaborate with someone, get out and ask. Most artists are open to creative endeavors and new ideas.” Check. Noted.
Another something different was a panel run by the fabulous Laura E. Davis about cultivating diversity. The panel was informal and conversational and gave a variety of perspectives on an important issue. Monica Carter spoke of her work with Lambda Lit and an outreach program designed to bring LGBT content, not just authors, to middle schools and high schools in an effort to cultivate acceptance and reduce bullying and harassment. Ross Gay spoke about the lack of diversity in academia (especially in undergraduate programs) and how this can impact not just the comfort but even the writing content of the few minority students in creative writing classes. Jennifer was representing the VIDA count with both its positive and negative news. The best quote of the session came from Rob Spillman, editor of Tin House:
“When I send out personal rejections with a request for the writer to send more work, 100% of male writers resubmit, yet only 50% of female writers do” – Wow. That’s a problem. I made a vow to resubmit to any journal that asks to see more work.
I did attend an excellent session on The Poetic Sentence, but I don’t have any notes. It was the one session of the conference where it was wall-to-wall packed. I gave up my chair to a woman with a cane, and I ended up plastered against the back wall with a whole row of people plopped on the floor in front of me and behind the last row of chairs. After 45 minutes of standing stock still for fear of stomping on the people in front of me, my fidgety nature and my bad hips took over and I had to leave. I wish I could have stayed, but it was not meant to be.
But AWP is almost as much (if not more) about the connections that you make with other writers and the book fair. The glorious book fair makes me feel all giddy and tingly on one hand and all defeated and humbled on the other. So many lovely books, small presses crafting things of beauty. So many journals to discover and editors to meet. So many fellow writers (many of whom I know virtually) to meet in person and have an actual conversation with! But it can easily be a low – look at all of these books/journals and all of these people who want to have their own work in these books and journals just like me. How in the world can I compete and get my words into the world? It can be discouraging.
But then I bump into Eduardo Corral and his contagious smile or Margaret Bashaar in her swanky high heels or Kelli Russell Agodon with her winning and warm personality, and I feel better. I have a nice lunch with Molly Spencer and Sally Rosen Kindred and feel like I am with old friends. I participate in an off-site reading with Kristin LaTour, Kristy Bowen, Kelly Boyker, Melissa Eliftherion, Kathleen Rooney, Kristina Marie Darling, Carol Guess, Kimberly Southwick, and a few other talented women who all absolutely kill with their words. I hang out at the Sundress table with T.A. Noonan and Nick McRae and swell with pride when every copy of my book at the book fair sells out. And all is right with the writer in me.
I know most people are sick of hearing about AWP, so I promise that this will be my last post about it. Until next year. I’m already thinking I might try to go back…