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‘I (yet again) didn’t attend’: The 2013 AWP Conference

By Alan Davies

Even though the 2013 AWP (Average White Poets?) Conference was closer to my home than usual / I (yet again) didn’t attend.

Some indication as to why might be provided by quotes from a William Golding essay / and a few previous thoughts from my ongoing journal of ideas / This Is Thinking

During this last academic year in America I made my first acquaintance with Creative Writing, and still don’t know what to think.
Among the many authors of standing whom I met in the States, I cannot recollect a single one who had not either been produced by these classes, or some time directed them, or both. This must surely intensify the gap between what is read on campus, and the few books sold in the public drugstore at the other end of the street.
The work produced in these seminars tends to fancy, since it is guaranteed an educated and highly critical audience.
Of course there is a sense in which any writer attends creative writing classes. He has to learn the business somehow. What then accounts for my uneasy feeling that to attend these classes is inferior to the hard knocks of making your own way from scratch?
May it be my feeling that we live, not by the work of ten thousand adequate writers, but by the work of a few dozen at most? Creative writing classes are sometimes said to ‘take the cork out’. What about the cases where the cork ought to be left in?
For the good in the method is obvious too. How can one convey a sense of the thousands, the hundreds of thousands of students who found in these classes a high road to the enjoyment of prose and poetry, a glimpse of the creative process?
– William Golding / “Gradus and Parnassum” / The Hot Gates / 1965


You cannot teach writing.
You can teach creative writing.


Workshop poetry is identifiable as such.
You can help someone write competently / and perhaps even well – but you can’t make anyone a poet (or writer of other literature).

Workshop poetry is – effete / smooth / relaxed / studies / sometimes competent / accessible (because it is never more than it is) / pale / ineffectual / opaque / motionless / flat / relatively frail / a sort of gerund / quiet / tame.

It is composed more of craft than of content / more of reflection than of life (life direct).

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Posted in Featured Blogger on Monday, April 8th, 2013 by Alan Davies.