Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Le bateau awp

At first I thought it was too blurry but then I realized that this picture of the SPD panel from Norma Cole’s phone is probably as good a rendition as any
of what many were seeing, not only at the moment of the panel but at many moments at the conference. The point can certainly be made that there is not one but an infinite number of AWPs according to your experience which in turn is based on your options, desires, appetites etc. Brent and I were somewhat nailed to the SPD booth by the lucky fact that we were in the first spot as one debouched from the escalator down from the main floor of the Hilton (accusation intended). It was a great pleasure to experience the steady stream of poets who seemed all to know, when asked, a lot about SPD. It was amusing to observe them having their various moods and agendas. Many were overwhelmed by little things like the 40 person coffee line and the bazillion poetry books and magazines and I saw a lot of examples of people being way too perky. Poets who wore absurd shoes lived to rue their vanity. Fashion choices were all over the map. Anything went -- from seventies throwback (so different if you actually lived through them) to haute NY poet couture (t shirt but the right one). There were a few who wandered by seeking solace and a friendly (and darkly subtle) A Tonalist nod (sneer?) in this land of, well, let me just say there are whole lot of poetics out there, Kemo Sabe.

I did see the translation panel that Norma was on which was great. I especially liked her talk which will appear in the Denver Quarterly. The talk referred provocatively to the act of making speech and thinking about what precedes speech. I was sorry to miss the Barbara Guest panel (which I hear was well attended) but did spy Cathy Wagner, from it, when she stopped by the booth, as well as Andrew Joron, from here, who seemed usually to be with Joe Donahue of Durham. Rae Armantrout was signing her new book Next Life at the Wesleyan table and read really well, I heard. Alice Notley suddenly appeared at the booth and gave everyone a thrill. Her new Selected, Grave of Light, from Wesleyan is just out and is gorgeous. She did the collage on the cover. Kasey Mohammad had his mad professor look going full throttle and seemed to be having a good time. Anne Boyers was also beaming. Jena Osman, Laura Mullen, Patricia Dienstfrey, Lee Ann Brown, Peter Gizzi, Liz Willis, Jaimie Robles, Susanne Dyckman and Elizabeth Robinson were there. (Six girl poets (I can say that) were in the same cab coming in.) Elizabeth, Norma, Donald Revell, Paul Hoover and Chris Arigo signed books for Rusty Morrison and Ken Keegan at Omnidawn. Laynie Brown was there and was a fellow sufferer with myself of the terrible headache (as were many). Kaya Oakes, our neighbor at the SPD headquarters in Berkeley, was there with her new book Telegraph from Pavement Saw and was a fellow sufferer of trade show insomnia which was epidemic. (But did she really actually have the new book?) Lisa Howe was very helpfully encouraging. Endless poets read in the many evening readings I didn’t make it to (2 or 3 a night). Luckily, being from the Bay Area, I am used to missing a lot a great readings every night. Instead I was having dinners with fellow art org people (or hiding with Norma) and in general holding down, attempting to add to or to defend the fort. Brent’s dedicated drinking in the evenings also constituted a lot of hard work put to that end.

The SPD panel on Poetry and Politics went very well. Brent ran it like a seasoned diplomat though he had never run a panel before. In the photo you can observe him towering over Joshua Clover with his shock of white hair, also towering. Heriberto Yepez looks over at him from the right and Lucina Kathman and Nick Flynn are on the left. Each of the panelists was good and quite distinct. Nick Flynn is involved in the on-going, very much not resolved, problem of torture. He had really thought it through and seems closely involved in investigations of the issue. Lucina Kathman is with International PEN and her stories of women all over the world who are imprisoned, dying of AIDS, having books burned by their husbands etc provided a useful perspective. Joshua’s heartfelt talk, mainly focused on voting, was sweetly arch (or is controlled fury what I mean?)It was amazing to see him being so articulate not long after he had arrived at the booth, darkly sunglassed, saying only and repeatedly “I am v. hungover. V. hungover.” Heriberto’s talk was phenomenal. He chucked his written notes to respond to the moment, commenting that we should probably stop worrying so much about doing the right thing and think more about revolution. His talk had a lot of levels. His sense of revolution brought up a lot for me (as it might for anyone my age who lived through the 60s and 70s when we thought we were in a revolution and now here we are in another war etc.) but I was happy to hear him say it. Many people responded to all of the talks, especially Joshua’s, from the audience, including Jen Hofer who focused usefully on the local.

There were a lot of good new books that were just out, Jen Hofer’s among them (hot off the press but I didn’t even see the name!) Albert Flynn DeSilver’s new book was there and he brought a brand new Owl Press book by Bill Berkson. Andrew Joron’s book of essays The Cry of Zero looks great (more on that.) Sawako Nakayasu and I greeted each other with tearful hugs like long lost friends and I think we did meet once before. This kind of thing happened a lot. The SPD table was happily nestled near the Ugly Duckling Presse table (or the Ducks as one calls them), Wave, Fence, Les Figues and Red Hen, one of whose authors, Doug Kearny, began wildy to play the fiddle much to the delight of, well, me and I think a lot of others. Tracy Grinnel had a table which I never saw in person but was v. happy to see Tracy when she drifted by a time or two. Many, many SPD presses were there and it was a great delight to be among em.

I appreciate Stephanie’s idea that there should be an alternative, cheaper meeting like this but regular people could never run such a thing – it takes a big organization. My advice to them as wants to have the experience it to join up and room with some folks to defray the costs. Next year it will be in New York. But when on the West Coast??? I will also say my dears, as if it were not already too clear, that less is more in the drinking department, unless you are bent on trying singlehandedly to dismantle the senses or whatever.

Laura Moriarty