Sunday, March 05, 2017

AWP 2017 - D.C.

Always ambivalent about AWP, I have to concede that the thing has gotten more expansive and open-minded with the years.  I hear far less open hostility to innovation than used to fill the corridors in years past, and the making space for more interesting work that first became visible in the book exhibit hall more than a decade ago has now spread to the panels.  It remains true that you will hear endless rounds of nebulous and  blurby language coming from the podia, as if we had all just graduated from some MFA grad seminar on writing poetry reviews, but there is an ever increasing portion of truly interesting work spread among the hundreds of sessions. I'm still irked that AWP was the only national conference to reject a propsed panl on Gil Scott Heron (this year they had plenty of room for Prince, though), but I find more and more of worth each time that I attend.

The first session I went to was on writing long poems, though I was primarily there to hear R. Erica Doyle, whose Proxy made a tremendous impression on my first reading of it.

But I was also on a mission to touch base with D.C. writers I had not seen in ages. In the exhibits I ran into Jody Bolz, who is now co-editor of Poet Lore, the oldest continually publishing poetry journal in the USA. Her co-editor is E. Ethelbert Miller.  I first published in the journal decades ago, before their editorship, and have only recently sent work there again, which will appear shortly. It's a very short poem. Just around the corner was Rick Peabody, who I had also caught up with at last year's AWP in Los Angeles, editor and publisher of Gargoyle and of Paycock Editions, author of I'm in Love with the Morton Salt Girl. Back in the 70's, I won a poetry prize from Circus Maximus magazine. Both Rick Peabody and Ethelbert Miller also appeared in that issue. We were all to become poetry friends soon.

I would have gone to the panel on D.C. poetry anthologies anyway, but I especially wanted to meet up with Grace Cavalieri, who I had not seen in thirty years. Grace was a moving force in Pacifica Radio in D.C., the long time host of The Poet and the Poem. I had appeared on her program back in the day, and participated in the music and poetry fund raisers she had organized, about which I will write more elsewhere.  Grace is still at it, and still organizing poets for good.

and I'll admit, much of a Prince fan as I am, I only went to the Prince session to say hi to Tisa Bryant. She was, as always, shall we say, encyclopedic. 

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