Today everyone seems to be getting ready for AWP, including me. It’s funny to start so early—I usually wait till the last minute on everything. But as soon as one AWP ends, panel proposals—& the entire cycle of preparation—begins anew.
Each year I seem to see nearly every poet I know. Or I note the absences. This year I proposed a panel on cognition, neurobiology, and memory, mostly with the hope of hanging out with co-panelists Amy Gerstler, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Megan Kaminski, and Danielle Pafunda; AWP, having received more proposals than ever before, sadly declined (no bitterness here—I understand the challenge of accepting only a small percentage of submissions). I wish they had accepted Amy King’s panel on gender and publishing, however—it seems like the most important topic we face today in poetry.
AWP is when all of our independently begotten communities—physical and virtual—get stuffed into the same city, and usually even into the same hotel, when unlikely cross-sections (and with them, new poetic combinations / aesthetic combinations) thrive. My favorite memories are of people—hanging out with Reb Livingston and Rauan Klassnik; having my fortune told (cards) with Jen Knox and Gina Myers; meeting Kristi Maxwell and Michael Rerick for the first time; reading for 1913 with Edwin Torres and Lynn Xu (and meeting Ben and Sandra Doller).
This year Coconut will be cohosting two off-site AWP readings—Thursday from 6-8 and Saturday from 7-10. Thursday co-hosts are Shanna Compton’s Bloof Books and Amber Nelson’s Alice Blue; Saturday’s partners are Switchback (Hanna Andrews and Becca Klaver, eds.) and Horse Less Press (Jen Tynes). I’ve been sending out reading invitations over the past few days, focusing primarily on forthcoming Coconut book authors.
Speaking of Coconut Books, if all goes according to plan, I’ll have two books and a chapbook printed and available at the conference. Megan Kaminski’s Desiring Map is first and almost finished—typesetting and design by Lauren Schimming. Megan teaches at the University of Kansas and is amazing—one of the kindest, most wonderful people I’ve ever met. Two of her three blurbs are in, and I’ll soon price out an initial print-run with Coconut’s new printer. Here’s one of her poems, each of which is untitled:
loam of dreams
tongues poke teeth
break like porcelain
carry in soft hands
rub against each sparked body
The second new Coconut book will be Angela Veronica Wong’s How to Survive a Hotel Fire. I met Veronica at last year’s AWP, read two of her chapbooks, asked to see a full-length manuscript, and immediately fell for her work. She’s a terrific reader too. & a very, very fun person. She’s typesetting her own book, and Abby Horowitz will design her cover. The poem below is called “How to Start a Hotel Fire.”
pass up free matches especially
the ones that are in a clear bowl
on the hostess stand
at a restaurant.
are easy enough
to amass, you
can have your own
ceramic bowl of matchbooks
on your bookshelf or
is one of the reasons why you will never get married.
there is no need for you to worry about what is boiling on the stove.
plus, the thing about fishnets is that they
are an optical illusion
so it’s no wonder
that little girl saw me and said
something to her mother.
I hope Molly Brodak’s chapbook The Flood will also be ready for AWP—it’s an incredible sequence of ekphrastic poems responding to Uccello paintings. Molly is Emory’s current Poetry Fellow, succeeding the brilliant Heather Christle. Both are amazing teachers, sublime readers, and wonderfully caring people. Here’s one of Molly’s poems, called “Awful Paolo”:
—someone wrote 75 years later, half-artist,
unencumbered by introspection,
half-eaten by perspective, his pet machine,
existing halfwise in cramped breathing,
with lime-burned palms and powder gestures
of a lion upon a serpent, a lion upon a girl upon an ox, lions upon lions,
a crow pecking a drowned child’s eyes, his body an arch,
two men fighting on horseback with little fear of water,
a man and woman riding an ox with extreme fear of death, its
all lost, and since he had never seen a chameleon before,
he instead painted a little camel, swallowing air to turn each color.
That’s it for today! Tomorrow I’m going to talk about distribution paths for poems in the second ninth of the 21st Century!