Friday, April 16, 2010

AWP 2010 Recap

Though certainly appreciative of the comments and traffic and progress generated by the 14th's post, I've got other things to cover. As I said, I returned on Sunday from the AWP 2010 Annual Conference in Denver. Here's the recap:

Disclaimer: If I don't include your name or a good link for you, please forgive me--I'm pretty terrible with names. Just leave a comment or shoot an email and I'll correct the problem.

Flew into Denver about 11p.m. Wednesday night. I know the conference "starts" on Wednesday but I've not been able to drag myself there before Thursday morning yet. Perhaps next year, in D.C.

After using my CPAP machine (why is there an 8-ball in that picture) for the first time (so that's what sleep is like!), I got up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Thursday morning, had a delightful breakfast with the friends who had so generously donated their house for the weekend (seriously, y'all--unless you hit the donate button on the right or get me a book to sell, I don't really have money for all these travelings), and hit the conference.

For the second year in a row (which means 100% of the conferences I've been to) my name tag was "set aside" and difficult to find. Next year I'm starting in the help line.

I started at the reading for the Swallow Anthology of New American Poets, edited by my good friend David Yezzi (who I met at last year's conference). The readers in attendance besides David were:

David also read from Craig Arnold and Rachel Wetzsteon, two poets included in the anthology who both died in 2009. In my forthcoming review of the Anthology, I'll discuss the readings.

During the question and answer session, the tired old "how can form be new?" question was asked. David's answer of "why would you not avail yourself of every trick in the book?" was, I think the best standard answer I've heard--certainly a great way of putting it. Jill Rosser answered with a different tack: she discussed visual art and wondered if you threw out color because it was old (or, I would say, images at all--why not write a song and call it visual art?).

My favorite answer, though, was from Erica Dawson, who referenced Donne, et al. when she referred to "all that old poetry" as being dirty and nasty and decidedly not old and stale. I liked Erica's answer because she was unafraid to speak to the inherent ignorance in the question--the only people who imagine that form can be staid are, I have to imagine, people who apparently have only read--or heard about--Edwardian poetry. The very question they ask belies their ignorance of the vastness of poetry's delightful and delicious forms. Ah well.

After the reading, I bummed around the Book Sale, arm-in-arm, for the most part, with my dear Jill Alexander Essbaum, stopping every dozen steps or so for her to fling her arms wide and embrace the newest person I don't know but quickly meet.

At 1:30 we went to the reading in honor of Craig Arnold. I didn't know Craig, though I am certain, seeing his picture, that we met at AWP last year--nor was I familiar with his work. Jillian, however, had been a good friend of his--as had most of the people she introduced me to, and so, an awkward guest at the funeral of a stranger, I went.

I was very glad to have gone. Apart from a few hiccups of strange and self-indulgent reading, the poets who spoke were both amazing and powerful--reading from their own works and from Craig's (who, if you did not already know, was a poet of great capability--look for more in my review of the Swallow Anthology). The highlight of the reading was Jenn Koiter, a colleague and friend of Craig's who recounted their time together in Laramie. As I said, I didn't even know Craig but Jenn's remembrance brought a tear to my eye.

After a late lunch at Jimmy John's (ohmigod, I just found out there's two in J-vegas! I wonder if they need a poet laureate?) I met up again with Jill and we took a taxi out to Denver's Green Spaces. Certainly not the best place for a reading, it was nevertheless a fine time of small press readings from poets with Bloof, Noemi, and Cooper Dillon (including Jill--Cooper Dillion brought out her chapbook Devastation).

After the reading, an incident involving Reb Livingston, Jenn Koiter, Steven Schroeder, Jill, P.F. Potvin, a poet from Wyoming, me, a sedan, and a shuttle van led Reb and I to admit that we were certainly no longer in high school.

Friday involved more bookstore wandering and a fantastic panel on libretto writing from Kate Gale, David Mason, David Yezzi, and Annie Finch. There was talk during the Q&A about creating a group of poets and musicians interested in creating collaborative works. Whenever I get the email from the group, I'll provide more info.

After the reading, I got a chance to shake hands with Christian Bok, and to tell him he called me a troll. He said it was likely I deserved it. Had he not been so impeccably dressed and so damned Canadian I might have wanted to punch him. As it was, we had a nice laugh.

Friday evening began swimmingly. Kelli Anne Noftle and I made plans to create a poetry folk band and I was exposed to the Austin contingent of AWP (notably--in terms of alcohol consumption--Malachi Black and Chris Mink [who apparently needs a stronger web presence]) and plans were made for a fine Austin party come May.

Then we went off to dinner. It was a pretty lackluster restaurant (that I was late to--ah, miscommunication!) but so were most of the ones I went to in Denver. We then went to a reading for Barrelhouse. Oy. Not that Barrelhouse isn't a great mag. But the venue was for shite--it was opening day for the Rockies and folks were, well, being folks. The bar was loud and crowded and there was not adequate sound engineering for the readers.

Not content to ruin great expectations, we continued on to the Prime Bar. It should be called the Fu Bar. Don't go here unless you think a mishmash of a chic bar and a sports bar that pumps in vintage Sheryl Crow is a good idea. Oh, and the bartenders can't tend bar.

I left (along with Kelli and Andrew[?]) to go back to the Hyatt bar (where at least they made good drinks) but by the time we got back, my morale was all shot to hell. I had a water.

Saturday was a pretty great day. After wandering the bookstore, going back to Jimmy Johns, and manning the UNO table (and selling lots of books!), my hosts took me up into the mountains. Or at least the foothills. I got a nice picture with my foot in some snow and ate a buffalo burger (overcooked but what do you want?).

After the Rockies was The Loudest Voice reading hosted (with free, good booze!) at the lovely and weird Dikeou Collection. If you scroll towards the bottom of the Loudest page, there's a picture of me and a blow-up bunny. Just saying. So I went to the reading to hear Jessica Piazza. Not only did she redeem herself from the terrible choice of bar the night before, but the reading of her crown of sonnets was perfect. I especially enjoyed her line "people like us: we're dust."

We finished up a fine evening in the Hyatt and then at 11 sharp, I turned into a pumpkin. Off to the airport for a 1 a.m. flight, I got back to Jacksonville at 9:00 in the morning--just in time to leave for church.

Well, folks, that was AWP for this year. Look for forthcoming reviews on books from Annie Finch, Jehanne Dubrow, Moira Egan, Nabile Fares, and Antonio Gamoneda. See you next year in D.C.!

1 comment:

jill alexander essbaum said...

i'm so glad we didn't die in denver!