Day 1, Reading 1: The Poets Guide to the Birds
Marianne Barouch read a kick-ass poem about sandhill cranes "like flimsy aluminum chairs left out all fall in the yard," their sound "like plastic scraping plastic raw."
They are "deliberate as monsters" and "never stop talking."
[cranes or poets?!?!?!]
David Huddle read a Robert Wrigley poem about raptors, wherein the speaker does not envy them their flights, their beauty, the air they fly through, or even their dignity, but admires them for "knowing many things, but not hatred, not need, not human love."
As the youngsters say, word.
Day 1, Reading #2: The Swallow Anthology
Erica Dawson's poem "High Heels" rocked my world. Big-Eyed Afraid, her first book, is recently out from Waywiser Press (I love that about AWP, how you can walk into a stuffy windowless room, hear a few poems, and come out a groupie).
I've admired Joanie Mackowski's work since she was an MFA candidate at the UW in the early 1990s, so it was all the more wonderful to hear her markedly untamed poems (I was so dazzled I hardly missed the old Joanie, the one juggling fire while reciting John Donne's "Batter My Heart Three Person'd God" in a hippy skirt and sporting long & flowing locks).
I also enjoyed J. Allyn Rosser's work, especially "Internal Revenue," and in general the notion of taking a dull, everyday term like "Internal Revenue" and make it shiny and new again. She also read John Foy's "Terminal," another fine example of a dead word resuscitated.
At the end of this reading, David Yezzi spoke in defense of formalist (so-called) constraints, as did the three above-mentioned ladies. Form should not be viewed as limiting but as generative--a handy tool that provides us with "the antithesis of convention because (as Joanie said so well) it makes us drunk." And I think it was Rosser who said "tossing out rhyme would be akin to a bunch of graphic artists getting together and saying 'hey, let's skip the color from now on; it's been so overdone . . . ' " She had a good point, indeed, though I winced at the thought of having to read/comment on piles of really, really bad rhymed poetry, though this led to the realization: if poetry is going to be bad, it's going to be bad whether rhymed or free verse, right?
I had plans to continue attending readings for the rest of the day, but then I stepped into the time-less, PA-less vortex otherwise known as The AWP Bookfair.
So, then it was 5:30 pm and I was heading down Colfax looking for the #15 back to my sketchy hotel but hey, get this: FREE wireless and my nightly room rate just a smidgen more than . . . the wireless fee at the Hyatt.
Take that, HA HA Hyatters!
And while I am eating my sour grapes (err, my room-service quesadilla with green chili side for $1o plus a very modest room service surcharge and tip), you can enjoy your view (mine is a covered swimming pool) while I sack out here with my pile o treasures:
2 issues of Ecotone, ooh la la! Southern Review, Georgia Review, Joel Wenderoth's Letters from Wendy's (finally bought it, only $8 at the Wave table), and the luscious Spoken Word issue of Rattle. (Low hotel rate = more $$ to burn on supporting small magazines and presses, not overpriced corporate-backed luxury.)
I will leave you now so I can dig into Letters and a most delicious bowl of green chili, but one last thing:
There was a woman wondering around the Colorado Convention Center with Sharon Olds' "I Go Back to 1947" tattooed to her right bicep and shoulder. Now that's what I call enthusiasm.
Stay tuned for more!