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Didn’t-go-to-the-AWP blues…

By A.E. Stallings

As far as I can tell (apologies if I missed somebody), I am the ONLY current Harriet blogger not to have been at AWP in NY. What did I miss? Was there a secret meeting of Harrieteers? What did go on at all those parties? What was the most fabulous reading I missed?
So here’s a post for everyone who WASN’T there. What are your excuses? Your reasons?


The only AWP I’ve been to is the one held in Atlanta in the 90s–it helped that I lived in Atlanta (definitely couldn’t have afforded to fly anywhere then, when I was a half-time secretary at George State), and I got a pass because Jeffrey McDaniel (a former Harriet blogger) put me on the roster for a Spoken Word event. The converence wasn’t nearly on the scale it was today. And I didn’t really know anybody except for the Atlanta locals I saw pretty often anyway. I remember feeling uneasy in the audience of a panel discussion on Humor when I suddenly realized it wasn’t going to be funny. (And none of the poetry discussed rhymed either, which, for a humor panel, seemed a little on the obtuse side–but that’s just my hobby horse.)
I meant to go to Atlanta last year–since I could combine that with visiting family, and I had a new book out. But I couldn’t make it happen.
This year, I also fully intended to go. But I didn’t. Is the truth perhaps that I have mixed feelings about going to a Poets’ Convention? (OK, there are fiction writers too I imagine–why does it strike me as such a Poetry event? Maybe fiction writers don’t need conventions in the same way, since they have agents.) Is the truth perhaps that some part of me resists? Sure, I would have seen lots of friends, got lots of books, made new friends, met people I admired, maybe been inspired. Reginald talks about feeling isolated in Pensacola–I also feel isolated in a different way in Athens, Greece. So maybe the whole thing would have been a wonderful boost and confirmation. But I also feel a bit queasy about the whole idea. And I think the truth is a lot of us do. Some of us have to go–especially if we teach. But most of us deep down have mixed feelings, don’t we? Isn’t it OK to fess up to this?
Here are some of my reasons for not going. What are yours?:
*Er, I live in Greece
*Flying makes me panic
*I had nowhere to stay
*Crowds make me panic
*How Public–like a Frog!
*Too much talk about poetry drowns out my Muse
*Drowning muses make me panic
*I too dislike it
*Meeting lots of successful poets makes me envious
*Envy makes me panic
*At my back I always hear the Great Dead Poets laugh and sneer…
*Maybe I am cultivating status as an Outsider, though obviously by being on this blog I am somehow really an Insider? Hmmm. (Must think about this one.)
*I had nothing to wear
*I’d rather glide out and look up in perfect silence at the stars
*MY PANEL WAS CANCELLED!!

Comments (5)

  • On February 9, 2008 at 10:48 am jane wrote:

    I wish I could say I was in Greece!
    I went for three years because my employer asked that I do so, to “represent the program.” I found lots to like — mostly seeing friends, and even making new ones, and some folks actually are at their best in a hotel bar. Conversely, the whole affair is largely (not uniformly) anti-intellectual, and I find that too depressing to want to dip my head into all that much. It’s a bit of a support group for latter day “beautiful souls.” I’m sure I’ll go back some day to catch up with farflung pals.

  • On February 9, 2008 at 11:47 am dwayne wrote:

    Interesting list. Let me think:
    My son was just born and hearing him coo seemed more important than poetry.
    I had no money.
    Meeting a lot of successful poets makes me envious.
    I dislike feeling envious.
    I was trying to write a poem and be a successful poet.
    No one is ever as nice as they are at conferences.
    I figured someone would find out I’m not as nice as I am at conferences.
    AWP seems to be filled with lots of reallty smart people.
    To be smart and a poet seems unfair.
    To be smart and talk about poetry in a way my grandmother doesn’t care about seems a waste.
    I’m working on being smart enough to waste weekends talking about poetry.
    I’m an undergraduate student and professors don’t take AWP as an excused absence.
    I would wanted to drop out of school to be a successful poet.
    Timberlands don’t seem proper AWP attire.
    I love Timberlands.
    There was not a panel on Why Poetry Loses Its Relevance to My Grandma Each Year.
    That list was fun to do.

  • On February 10, 2008 at 9:56 pm Anna wrote:

    I really wanted to be there too. I had just graduated with my MFA from the low-residency MFA Program at Bennington, and a bunch of my classmates were going. Unfortunately, having just returned to my young children after a ten day absence, there was no way they were going to understand another poetry-related disappearance by Mom so soon. I’m fairly sure this outlook on life DOES make me an outsider. I love the Dickinson and Marianne Moore quotes in your list.

  • On February 13, 2008 at 10:53 am Collin Kelley wrote:

    Hi Alicia,
    I also didn’t go to AWP, and here’s why:
    *Couldn’t afford it.
    *To much po’biz makes me want to stop vomit
    *Couldn’t afford it.
    *I’m definitely going to Chicago in 09, so saving my money
    *Couldn’t afford it.
    Hope all is well in Greece. We miss you in Atlanta.
    CK

  • On February 16, 2008 at 3:30 pm KateBB wrote:

    Couldn’t walk there due to sciatica flare-up
    Couldn’t afford the bus fair
    Felt fat
    Lost my voice
    Scared I’d be a “wallflower at the orgy”
    Scared period
    Don’t really “get” it
    Am a nonacademic snob
    Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded


Posted in Uncategorized on Saturday, February 9th, 2008 by A.E. Stallings.