Highlights from AWP

Charles Simic and, standing in for the ill Bruce Weigl, Laure-Ann Bosselaer discussed their journals and their influence on the poems they’ve written. Other than mentioning minutia such as “lined” or “unlined” journals and their size, the discussion ran toward a couple of interesting yet unrelated points. The first came from Bosselaer who explained the meaning of the seldom used word “sempiternal,” a word which I have used in a poem of my own. I’ll let you discover its meaning for yourself. The second point as stated by Simic was “Most poets do not understand their own metaphors” to which he added “Metaphor proves the existence of heaven and hell.” I’m curious as to how you might interpret this last statement.

Kevin Larimer of Poets & Writers magazine moderated a panel discussion on Issues and Contemporary Poetry. The magazine will launch an updated web site that will include a calendar of events later this month. Tree Swenson, chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, described that organization’s role as the “serotonin of the poetry world.” New to the Academy, www.poets.org/mobile.

Lee Briccetti of Poets House (http://www.poetshouse.org/) considers that organization the “physical space and spiritual home for poetry.” Poets House receives 2000 new titles each year and maintains a Directory of Poetry Books. It will move to its new rent-free location in Battery Park City in the fall of this year.

The Poetry Society of America (http://www.poetrysociety.org/), represented by Alice Quinn, boasts having placed poems in the subways and buses of 16 cities. It also maintains a chapbook fellowship program which publishes 4 new titles annually.

Lastly, John Barr of the Poetry Foundation would have you visit http://www.poetryfoundation.org/ where anyone may download any of 6500 poems for free.

Also available online is access to the Library of Congress: www.loc.gov/poetry where its Poetry at Noon reading series items are updated every May.

All panelists agreed that poetry audiences are growing.

I attended several panels on lit-mag publishing as well as a few on poetics including one on the poetry of Marianne Moore (Timothy Liu was one of the panelists) and another on the poetic sequence.

The most memorable reading was on the poetry of grief and faith organized by Allison Granucci of Blue Flower Arts. Li-Young Lee, Claudia Emerson, Mary Karr, C.K. Williams and Robert Bly read. Lee, while still never raising his head to look at the audience, was more composed than when I last saw him read for BOA in 2006. Emerson and Williams essentially read the same poems they had read at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival the week before AWP. Mary Karr, whose work both in poetry and prose I admire very much, was a big disappointment. Hers was the briefest reading of the group. She also selected poems from her book Sinners Welcome that were the least representative of either grief or faith. As to Bly, his personality overshadowed the reading as he inserted explanations into the poems as he read them and often repeated himself. He’s still quite a character.

Finally, during the Bennington cocktail party Ed Ochester collapsed much to the horror of those of us standing near him. Ochester is no small man so seeing him crumble was all the more dramatic. When the paramedics finally arrived to take him to hospital, he was pale but responsive, even raising his fist as they wheeled him down the corridor. It has since been disclosed that he was rushed into surgery to repair an aortic aneuryism, definitely a life-threatening event (my grandmother’s third husband did not survive this type of crisis). At last report, he is doing well though not yet ready for visitors.

Feel free to add your thoughts about AWP.

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