You know when you put your music on random for a party and "I'm Like a Bird" comes on like six times? AWP is like that; there's always someone you see over and over everywhere. This year, Mike Young was that person. Not that Mike Young is the "I'm Like a Bird" of writers.
I hug almost everybody. When in doubt, hug. That's my philosophy.
When you walk into a big room with a lot of pretty things for sale (like Barneys, or the AWP bookfair), it's good to set up some arbitrary rules to prevent yourself from buying like everything. This year my arbitrary rules were: 1) I'm not buying anything until Saturday, and 2) I'm only buying books by friends, be they real-life friends or Twitter friends. Here's what I bought:
Rise in the Fall by Ana Bozicevic
Vow by Rebecca Hazelton
Mother Was a Tragic Girl by Sandra Simonds
Balloon Pop Outlaw Black by Patricia Lockwood
Wolf and Pilot by Farrah Field
This Is What It Is Like to Be Loved By Me by Jared White
The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather
I'm Not Saying, I'm Just Saying by Matthew Salesses
OK, John actually bought those last two. He got to them first. Other friends with newish books, I either didn't pass your table or I already have it.
I don't like marathon readings. They usually turn into hostage situations. What I hate is when you're standing next to someone you only get to see once a year and want desperately to talk to, and if you so much as whisper a comment to your friend, even something positive like "Isn't he awesome?" everyone around you goes gestapo with the whirling heads and sibilant hissings. This happened last year in Chicago, when I was standing next to Matt Rasmussen and Mark Leidner was reading, and I didn't want to interrupt or disturb Mark Leidner, I just wanted to talk about what a good performer he is, and I couldn't, because poetry readings cultivate stifling, silent atmospheres. I wanted to write a manifesto called POETRY NEEDS SPACE, about how you can't appreciate any art when it's crowded up against too much other art and the atmosphere is poisonous to discourse. I understand that you need something close to silence if you're going to listen to someone read, but that's why normal readings end after 2-4 readers, or at least have an intermission, so people can get up and shake it out. Poetry is too intense and requires too much concentration to just sit still and absorb for three hours straight like it was a Kevin Costner movie. If you're going to cram 20 readers into one event, you need to figure out some other way to create space, like having lots of breaks or multiple stages. Because what the F is the point of going to a poetry reading if you can't talk about the poetry? I can feel alone at home. Anyway, I never wrote that manifesto.
To end on a positive note: I only went to one reading (mine; sorry) and it was great. Lots of the aforementioned space, plus variation in style and genre, and a really good audience. So thanks, people that organized it and were there.
How was your AWP, if you went? I mean, we don't have to talk about. I know it's over and boring.