In February AWP is coming to Chicago and I
have been deluged with readings invitations
and calls for books.
Cracked Slab Books the press that I run with
William Allegrezza will have a table so if you want
to say anything to me I will be there and if you are
especially mean I will give you free book if not you
have to pay for them. I am only kidding of course. I enjoy AWP but this year's edition has some problems. First off most of the sessions look tired and filled with Poets talking to poets or Billy Collinesque poets talking about how they feel.
These events usually make me want to vomit.
But my biggest crit is more of the attendees not the organizers. There must me 30 reading scheduled off site during the conference. I am reading in two of them but I live here in Chicago. I am always amazed at poets who travel to another city filled with fine poets and then they organize a reading for their poetry community. The truth is you can listen to yourself at home perhaps you should seek out new poets that you don't know in a new city?
Or must we bring New York and San Francisco to Chicago?
When I was at AWP in Austin, a town filled with good poets (Joe Ahearn, Hoa Nguyen, Dale Smith just to name a few) I read with a group of poets from Chicago. I enjoyed it but I think the organizers of AWP should do more to highlight local poets and writers when they come to a city.I know that the Poetry Center of Chicago proposed a session on Chicago poetry and reading and they were rejected. So on Friday February 13th at 630 PM they are organizing a reading for Chicago poets in which I am reading. Why wouldn't AWP want to have that kind of reading affiliated with their event?
A quick look at the featured presenters at AWP includes only three writers who have anything to do with Chicago, Luis Alberto Urrea, a fine fiction writer, Stuart Dybek, a fiction writer and Tyehimba Jess who is a poet. In a city with as many poets as we have writing at this time this is pretty thin on the ground? What about all the other fine poets here in Chicago and fine fiction writers? You could have bumped Carolyn Forche for a local poet or writer who would bring more?
Who did the organizers call?
I can name at least ten poets writing in Chicago today whose work is seminally important, Garin Cycholl, Chris Glomski, Peter O'Leary, Simone Muench, Phillip Jenks, John Tipton, Lina Ramona Vitkauskas, Robert Archembeau, Kim Lojek, William Allegrezza, and Kristy Odelius are just a few of the names. In the region we have poets/writers as diverse at Gabriel Gudding, Kass Fleischer, Joe Amato, Cole Swenson, Meikal An, Chuck Stebelton and Clayton Eshelman .
None of these poets or writers merited being featured?
Our press Cracked Slab Books published two years ago an Anthology of Chicago poetry that has sold over 1000 copies and I am sure someone at AWP has seen our book? If not, I could have sent them a copy. We had over 30 poets in our anthology all of whom have published books, why not feature the city that is hosting AWP? This is an oversite. They are doing a Gwendolyn Brooks tribute reading- ok- she is a great poet but there are many living poets or writers who should be highlighted as well.
It appears to me that AWP needs to decide what it is? Is it Book Expo America? Is it MLA? Is it
Poets and Writers Live?
The fact is that there are too many writing programs, churning out MFAers, taking money from young writers who then go into debt to pay for a degree that will not get them anywhere in the job market.
There are many great writing programs but there are also writing programs that exist for the same reason that many other programs exist- to collect money.
How many more unemployed MFA's do we need?
As Rexroth once said get your nose in the armpits of the world and then go write- this is the great anti-MFA Sentiment. You do not need an MFA to to be a poet or a writer- but you do need direction and community.
What Poets and Writers need is an organization that leads the artist to grow in his/her art and craft.
The following questions would be good ones to answer....
How do you start a website? Blog or online Magazine?
How do you start a press? Is it worth it?
How do you build a life as a poet or writer?
What does it mean to work outside academia and write?
What should I be reading?
What is the best way to educate yourself?
Do you really need an MFA? Or are you throwing away money?
What is the place of the poet or writer in our society?
If AWP wants to organize an educational conference for administrators or professors of creative writing that would be good but that is not what AWP is.
Anyway come by our table and let me know that you disagree with me I love a good argument!
If you come by we can go out for a Beef Sandwich- on me.
Special kisses for New York and San Francisco poets who are out of sorts in the middle of the country!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I would love to show you around our little town....