AWP Day 1: Highlights

1. Meeting Joan Retallack and giving her a copy of OFC. I’ve always admired her, and I’ve seen her many times at readings and functions but never had the proverbial balls to talk to her (which is weird because I never get shy around poets!)
2. Running into Austin Segrest, who I grew up with, went to school with, was in classes with all K-12, but rarely see nowadays and wasn’t expecting to see. He’s in a creative writing program somewhere in Georgia so he was there (like all the other MFA students).
3. Meeting Joyelle McSweeney, who is a lovely person in person (in spite of our aesthetic differences) and who did a great job reading noir fiction tonight at the “Steal this Reading” reading in Greenpoint (which was super-well attended!) Since her review of OFC, though not a bad review per se, was the most negative the book received, I’d had some anxiety about meeting her in real life, but she was lovely.
4. One of the most beautiful books I have ever seen… possibly the most beautiful example of letterpress small-batch printing I’ve ever seen: The Jungle from Rope-a-Dope Press. This is a series of letterpress broadsides, all by young poets you probably know, bound together in an edition of 12 (of which 11 remain for sale at $240 each). Each broadside is a work of art in itself. The broadsides are then coptic bound into an oversized hardback book with letterpress leaves with jungle motifs between each broadside. If you have $240 to invest I don’t see how it could be better spent. If you don’t have that kind of money, the AWP deal on the individual broadsides is 3/$24.
5. If you don’t have $240 but want to invest in an artist’s book, the most bang for your buck is Andrea Baker’s $15 “True poems about the river go like this.” “True poems” is an accordion book printed on scraps of canvas glued onto folded stiff canvas with black thread embroidery and slathered red oil paint. I don’t know how many copies of these there are, but at $15 they won’t last long– the effort put into this and the quality of the poem within make it the best deal I’ve seen so far at AWP. I sold two copies of OFC today and I immediately went and bought this and the Ugly Duckling volume of Aram Saroyan’s minimal poems.
6. Christian Bok’s talk on viral poetry. I mean, that man makes me want to scream like a Beatles fan. (Yet, I have no trouble talking to him… because I’ve known him since Crystallography was his only book. Harder to approach Retallack.)
7. Seeing A Sing Economy in real life– it’s beautiful, and I’m happy with the way my poems in it turned out.
8. There were a few highlights of the off-site “Steal this Reading” AWP-related reading, such as: seeing Justin Marks in real life, hearing Joyelle’s new genre fiction, seeing/hearing Adam Clay for the first time (thank god– a charming, funny poet! After a string of Poet Voices it was a relief), meeting Andrea Baker… but what made me feel special was that Matt publicly thanked me and the handful of others who helped sew Cannibal. It felt nice.


About Jessica Smith
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