So AWP 2009 is over and the event graced our Chicago with all its good and bad things. Some of the positives;
1) Off Site Readings: It makes one wonder why the AWP organizers don't just use the off sites as their main readings because they blow away anything they organize on site. I read in two that were fabulous one from Mandorla Magazine and one from The Poetry Center of Chicago both on Friday night that were excellent. There was also the Norton reading organized by our Kim Lojek and Cole Swenson that was great an well attended.
2) A few sessions. I went to one curated by Kass Fleischer with Kristen Prevallet and others that was great.
Apart from the normal AWP goodness of seeing friends et cetera there was much to criticize about this event and I think that the community of writers needs to tell AWP that these things are really not acceptable;
1) Panels: Most of the other panels I attended were intellectually weak and not well prepared. The rooms were too small and in the end they were not worth the money we paid.
2) Lack of Local Focus: The event was in Chicago but there was no Tribute to Studs Terkel? The Poetry Center of Chicago had to do their reading off site? There were no Chicago area poets or writers on the planning board? Why?
3) The over emphasis on Writing Programs. I know that that is what AWP is but the fact is no one cares about Pedagogy conferences on how to teach young narcissists how to write poems.
4) Costs: It is outrageous that it costs and exhibitor $175 dollars to add another person to their tables- this should be free- it is also outrageous that it costs $175 for an exhibitor to have an author at their table. Most of the presses at AWP are non- profit small presses why fuck them?
In the end AWP needs to re-evaluate what they are doing. They need to realize that they have a good thing but they cannot continue to do the things above if they want the show to thrive. Also, if I had purchased a booth I would have been very angry- there was no traffic. In the end it was great to see everyone but again AWP needs to rethink its mission. If they want to be a writing teacher event fine but if they want to be a literary event they need to think differently especially in this economy.