Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Confession Tuesday - Post AWP Edition

Bless Me Reader For I Have AWPed::

It's been several weeks since my last confession, but let me focus on this past week.
It's been 7 days away from my office, two Delta plane flights, over 700 presses, literary journals and writing organizations, over 550 readings, panels and craft lectures, too much coffee and Diet Coke to count, notes and writing and more writing, faces I'd never seen, faces I wanted to meet for the first time and faces I didn't get to meet.  A week of much more walking then I would have done in a week of judicious tread mill sessions, a swim, a hot tub, more tweets than a hundred birds could do and little rest. 

This was my first time at AWP. Yes, I confess I was a newbie. It was also my first time in Minneapolis and St Paul (St Paul is another story). 

 I has a whole host of (good intention) warnings abut the event. I read any number of online articles geared for first timers in the weeks leading up to the event. I also had direct conversations with a hand full of veteran attendees. The overwhelming theme that I capt hearing and reading was that it was in fact overwhelming. Intimidating and draining were also words that I heard. Still, no one ever suggested it wasn't wort it. I would say that all the forgoing statements were true, 

I confess that I was overwhelmed before I left. How do you whittle down all the possible panel presentations none of which are repeated without sacrificing numerous ones you want and or should be at? My schedule was shifting sand right up to the presentation in some cases.  I will give my wife credit for helping me ask myself questions to narrow the list somewhat. It was nice that Cathy too enough interest to engage in conversation about the options. She often has an ability to look at such things without as much emotion and ask good questions that can affirm one of your selections or in the alternative provide a significant rational to accept an alternative. 

It was overcast on our decent into Minneapolis and I was on an isle seat anyway. But I confess I only ever saw one lake in the state that boasts of Ten Thousand Lakes. I know, what are the odds? 

While it was my first time in Minneapolis, it was also my first time in St Paul. I confess that  I deboarded the blue line and caught a green line light rail and road to it's stop. This mysteriously placed me in St Paul. I was certain of my mental notes that I had done what I was to do, but alas I confess that the embarrassing mistake delayed my arrival at my hotel by a couple of hours.  No that I think about it, this means I was actually twice in Minneapolis.I got on the second train where I should have made my departure for my hotel only six blocks away.  I will give the city kudos for their public transportation. The light rail is efficient (if you know what you are doing) and affordable. It intigrates well with their bus service as well.


The event is both draining and inspiring. If you were to several panels back to back, there was not much time to do much but a quick restroom break and hustle to the next panel.

Here are some of the panels I attended:
  • Thank you for the Surgery
  • Confronting our fears and turning Adversity into Art
  •  The Pink Tuxedos
  • Intimate Communities: How to Form and Keep a Writing Group that Works
  • Old Friends Who've Never Met and Some Poems
  • The Best New Poets: A 10th Anniversary Reading
  • A Room of One's Own, Plus Others:Writers Shared Spaces and Communities
  • The Sentence and the Line. A Journey  Meaning Makes
  • James Wright in Minneapolis
  • Melancholy and the Literary Uses of Sadness
  • A Tribute to Jane Kenyon
  • I Am Me as You Are We - Exploring Pronouns in Experimental Poetry
  • Echos of Displacement; Sound in Poetries of Diaspora
I confess some of these were quite different than what I might have  expected. That is not to say they were bad, just surprisingly moved on the subjects in ways that were different than I might have assumed.

A Surprise: I was taken pleasantly by surprise to learn from a couple of presenters that they had taken different routes in their writing path than a MFA. I confess that this was actually a liberating experience. Understand if I had my life to do over (there is that catchy no do-overs thing) I would have likely considered another path that would have involved an MFA. At my age this is not really a practicality. But is was freeing in a way to see these people participating and seemingly positive signs that they did not let such things stand in their way of writing and achieving success. 


The incomparable Professor Biddinger
author of A Sunny Place with Adequate Water 

This makes a third book by Mary Biddinger  that  I own.

She is actually holding up Barn Owl Review - which I meant to pick up a copy of and will now have to order.

On the right I am pictured with poet Jessica Smith. Jessica and I both share a passion for birds. I am anxious to delve into her most recent book Life Lists which forms the backdrop for this work.

Pictured on the left  is Eduardo Corral and Sandra Beasley who both read at a 10th Annual reading of the Best New Poets anthology. They were two of the four readers. All four were especially worthy of their selection for this. I've read Beasley's blog for years but had never met her until this reading. She has a compelling voice that is fresh and flourishing. You want to read more of her work upon the moment she is finished reading.

I also was excited to meet Nin  Andrews and pick up a copy of her new collection  Why God is a Woman


I confess the event was not without disappointments .  One of the biggest was missing the opportunity to meet Carolyn Forche and get a signed copy of one of her books.  I did not realize that her book signing was not a part of the scheduled book signings that were associated with the book table set up in the lobby area. My mistake was further complicated by people at the tables giving me two different days and times for here and as those times approached I was told something different. Finally I realized that she signed at a table inside the book fair and the time had passed, thus I was never able to connect. Carolyn is a favorite of mine and it would have been a big deal to have met her and gotten a signed book. 

After the fact disappointments - local poet Maryfrances Wagner and I each realized after returning home we had both been there and could have a lunch or a glass of wine together. 

I also realized yesterday the Andrea Beltran was there - again after the fact. 

There were a number of poets from the Northwest Pacific area that I would love to have met, skipped this years event. All of who I consider magical writers who are doing something very right  But life goes on. 


As the last rites are administered to AWP15 let me add a few closing thoughts.

  1. If you were from Minneapolis and out and about town after hours but may have appeared that a zombie apocalypse was occurring as there were writers walking every street with their eyes looking totally zoned out. And yes they were writers not Minnesotans - as evidenced by their name tags on lanyards and or AWP tote bags. 
  2. I cannot judge the WiFi against past conferences but it was spotty at best. I have no idea how many tweets were hung up in the tweetmosphere because the sender walked ten steps while tweeting.
  3. AWP is not going to make me a superior writer, but it has given me another window to look through. It has made me physically tired, but alas it has infused me with a charged mental attitude and a lot of new directional thinking. 
  4. There is no substitute for being immersed in and among remarkable writers and exceptional poetry. Also, bringing home lots of books and journals to feed the reading  experience. And I believe poets at al levels have a need to read. 
  5. I was glad to see and connect with advocacy groups for the arts and VIDA.
  6. So many poets in boots. Just had to throw that out there. Is this the replacement for the beret?
  7. And last, I was taken by the number of mothers with children, infants. I know taxing the conference was to me. I can hardly imagine the balancing act these women had to preform. I applaud their commitment to writing.  And yet I know for every one that was there with child there were untold numbers who wanted to be but it didn't work for them.  I'm thinking out loud here but I wonder if there has ever been consideration to child care options for the event? Maybe this has been explored. If not, it should be looked at. And surely dads and other family members, can offer a more supportive to young mothers. 
  8. I do what to give a shout out to my wife looked out for me from afar.She was concerned that I would forget to eat or something. I just know she was always concerned about it. Breakfast at my hotel was pretty awesome. The first day I shot a picture of my platter and messaged it to her to ease here mind. Afterwords, I realized I should have done like kidnappers and put the front page of the morning paper in the picture so the date was prominently displayed. 
My mind is still in overdrive. Hopefully it will slow a bit and my  energy level increase to where they are working in tandem soon. 


I have poems to write!

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