Monday, April 04, 2005

Poets' & Writers' Conferences

So what is it really like to go to one of these things. Being incredibly averse to traveling, I've never attended one. I already have an agent -- don't need to hobnob for one of those. Already have a publisher for my poetry book -- and does anyone want to see the proposal for ROCKET LESSONS, still available to an interested memoir publisher, as they say?

Why would I then go to a conference? To meet the other writers, of course. Since I can't this year (a) afford it or (b) get time off to go in the summer, I'm conferencing the cyber way -- by visiting the blogs of other poets and writers who go and report. Kelli Russell Agodon has a great blog series on AWP, which just concluded in Vancouver. I heard about it well in advance on a listserv, and have been envious since February of others who got to attend.

Another report on AWP suggests that it has gotten too big, too repetitious, and also, that Canadians are the politest people on earth. I like this report because (a) it makes me feel better about not having gone and (b) I agree, Canadians are the politest people on earth, which is probably secretly what Americans have against Canada.

My favorite report from AWP so far is that Molly Peacock giggles. Somehow, from reading her work, I can imagine this and like her poetry better for it.

I still have fantasies about making it to the Napa Valley Writers' Conference, which I imagine I could commute to, and make it home every night to sleep in my own bed. But seriously, why would I want to go? Really. When there's a poetry reading every night in the San Francisco Bay Area. And a stack of unread books next to my own bed, which I've already paid the mortgage company to occupy. If anyone can give me a compelling reason to plunk down $600 - $1500 to go to one of these shindigs, I'm willing to consider it.


  1. Rachel, I did go, being so close already and feeling like some adventure. In terms of the panels, I've learned more from online articles and even board discussions and blogs. But the readings were mostly great, to the point where I came home with poetry overload. The thing is, I only actually talked about poetry one night and scattered amongst other conversations. But there was something about just being around all those creative types, I think ... I came home with bits of two poems in my notebook, and a whole new device I'm experimenting with. Nothing I heard, unless in a roundabout way ... somehow just being there brought it out. Which convinces me I do need to hang out with flesh-and-blood poets, not just virtually, but it sounds like you already do that.

  2. Napa is great. I went in 2000 and 2001 and met great friends and had a blast. It was well worth the $.
    I highly recommend!

  3. Jennifer -- Yes, I belong to a couple of workshop groups and sporadically attend and participate in local readings. I find something disconcertingly anti-poetry, though, about the dramatic values of spoken word overtaking other values. I wonder if this obtains in a conference setting as well, so many of them emphasizing "new work" (as though creativity needs to be jump-started like a dead battery) and the workshopping of the daily maundering being a feature of the whole high-priced thing. That said, I do hope to attend the right conference one of these days. Just being around all those creative types -- we are nurtured by it, aren't we?

    Louise -- Hi to you who reside near the L.A. Harbor, across the water from San Pedro! And thanks for your recommendation about Napa, as that's the one I'm likeliest to go for, one of these summers. I'd like to hear more about your experience.