Sunday, March 4, 2012

AWP Day 3 (Haiku in the hall)

Well, the conference is over. All that's left now is thousands of leftover flyers advertising literary journals and last night's off site literary/drinking events. And the occasional wine bottle stranded in a sitting area in front of an elevator. Most conference goers, if they haven't left yet, will be on their way this morning: driving or catching a plane.

Yesterday was a chilly, blowy, and even snowy day in Chicago. I got out of the basement for one session but spent many hours again in the bookfair. UCA's table did a brisk business, especially after we slashed the price of Toad Suck Review in half. Ken Waldman, Alaskan fiddler-poet and tireless self-promoter, came around with his fiddle and his backpack full of free Waldman CDs and poetry books. The day before I'd gotten his "Sonnets from the 43rd Presidency" (that's George W., folks) so yesterday I wanted to hear him fiddle. He claimed to be looking for a good place to set up, but he never really did. Davis Schneiderman was in the hall, dressed in his body covering white lyrca costume to advertise his blank book Blank, but I never saw him in costume only street dress. He kindly showed me a picture someone had taken of him in costume. In the afternoon, I walked a cold five blocks to the Palmer House to hear a session on long poems. While it was good, I guess, to grab some fresh air, the session was disappointing. The panelists were fine poets all, and a few of their favorite long poems were discussed, but there was not as much discussion of their own processes, and reasons for, creating long poems as I would have liked. And there was no talk of teaching the long poem in a writing workshop. (Maybe that would be asking too much.) Late day and late conference sessions do tend to disappoint as a rule. I think because all involved, both audience and panelists, are brain dead. So I can't really hold it against these folks. On the whole, from the program I saw and the reports I heard, this conference's sessions were better than average.

A few random notes from Day 3:

1) "Magazine on a postcard" the sign announced, and that's exactly what Hoot magazine is. Each edition is a single poem or short short printed on a postcard with background art or photography. Gorgeous stuff, actually. 2) An editor from a journal for sports poetry came around handing out spongy faux-baseballs with the URL of the magazine printed on it. Cute idea, but because of the odd shape I couldn't easily slip the ball in with the rest of my stuff and I ended up leaving it behind. Now I can't remember the journal's name. 3) In the last day many journals start looking for ways to dump their excess products. Some journals use lagniappes. Toad Suck Review gave away a free collector's item issue of Exquisite Corpse Annual for each purchase of TSR. Another journal found a more direct pitch. A small (airplane size) bottle of wine with each purchase! The question is: Did they just happen to have the wine around or did they actually buy it to use as a promo? 4) It wasn't even that far into the day when someone came on the overhead speakers and announced that no alcohol should be consumed in the bookfair. Now I wonder why that announcement came on yesterday but not Thursday or Friday? Because on Saturday, per tradition, AWP lets the general pubic into the bookfair? Because the tempation to celebrate is stronger on the last day? I can tell you that as I left the hall yesterday, the good and obviously tired folks from 32 poems magazine had quite a large bottle of red open in front of them. Cheers, guys. 5) Former UCA student and recent Roosevelt University MFA grad Heather Cox recommended Featherproof Books to me, specifically the short story collection The Universe in Miniature in Miniature by Patrick Sommerville. It is, she said, her favorite story collection ever. I trust Heather, so I bought it, fortunately at a discount.

My New Year's resolution this year (I almost never make them) was to write creatively every day, even if that only means 5 minutes of hurriedly scrawled poetry. Well, at this conference, hurriedly scrawled poetry is what I had to rely on. But I made it a project, which made it fun. In occasional pauses at the bookfair table I started scratching out short observational poems. Without my even trying to, these poems wanted to become, and thus did become haiku. (No, I did not bother--at least not yet--with counting syllables. I think that's asking a bit much.) So among all the other stuff I'm carting home, one item will be a couple pages of bookfair haiku. If nothing else, they kept my resolution intact!


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