Saturday, June 19, 2010

Writers and Readings and Panels at AWP Denver/1

So, while everyone else typed their notes up at Denver, on the plane from Denver, and directly post Denver, I wrote mine in my head mostly and find I have them these days as a sort of subterranean constant companion--procrastination is my middle name apparently, I could possibly take up a new career selling it by the pound. I'd like to say I was so wrapped in teaching, writing, reviewing, playing with Sophie--not to mention taking her to school, signing up for her next school, also to tennis, piano, ballet--not to mention getting caught up in all the myriad little things we necessarily do to hold the world together sundawn to sundown--but I kinda know about those writers out there who do Everything and do it All the time and generally put me to shame.

The spring semester ended and the summer semester started too soon. I am back to teaching online--two classes through the Writer's Center, one through GW--back to sneaking time in between grading for my own writing, back to the old craving for time to read. Nevertheless, here is some of what I wanted to say, about AWP, which to me was a marvellous experience, and a first, since I've never been able to afford it before, time or money-wise. (This time it was all-expense-paid, thanks to the Grace Paley prize--for which yes I'm very grateful--they flew me out, put me up, wined me, dined me, all of it, very dizz-inducing.)

It was nice, first of all, to run into Jane Shore at the airport, and then after that Ethelbert Miller, and then later, Nancy Naomi Carlson on the plane, and, since we all shared that ill-fated flight to Denver which was held up by the sneakily-smoking Qatari diplomat who had to choose that particular evening of all the 365 in the year (with all of us trapped in a pressurized cabin thirty thousand feet above sea level, literally rocking above the Rockies) to sass some seriously unsassable flight attendants about lighting bombs on his shoes and thus precipitating a national crisis which held us up from check-in at our hotels for at least 5 hours if not more--a saga I should probably expound on elsewhere!--we definitely had time to catch up.

Books to look for and read: Nancy Naomi Carlson's new book of translations of Rene Char's poems: Stone Lyre: Poems of Rene Char; Jane Shore's A Yes or No Answer: Poems ; Ethelbert Miller's The 5th Inning.


The funny thing was, I had carried with me the Dec 2009 issue of The Chronicle to read the interviews with Colum McCann and Ethelbert Miller on the plane, and then we ran into Ethelbert at the airport, which was marvellous. If you've never met him, not only is he a terrific poet and poet's advocate and literary editor and social commentator and activist, he is just the nicest person, with lots of advice for someone with a new book who is still exploring ways to promote it. Ethelbert runs a blog at

I wanted especially to make a note of his advice to writers at the tail-end of Shonda Buchanan's interview with him: "It's important to keep tradition alive. Try and document as much as possible. This will help to reclaim memory in the's important for all young writers to understand that they have the capability to shape history and not simply be shaped by it. I would remind writers to see themselves as witnesses, and to always speak the truth to the people, as well as truth to power..."

The whole interview is in The Writer's Chronicle, Volume 42, Number 3/Dec 2009.


And, having run out of playtime, on all things AWP Denver, I'll have to write more later....