It Begins…

Filed under: Blog, Editors, Travel |

The annual AWP Conference began today in Chicago. Although the proceedings do not start in earnest until tomorrow, with a filled-to-the-gills panel and event schedule, there was still plenty going on in the Windy City today.

Editor-in-Chief Kwame Dawes had this to say:

“In Chicago the sun startles you–makes the non-committal chill in the air redundant. The wind gropes you like a cliche–what I did not expect was all this dust in the air, stinging the skin. Tall boots everywhere, sensible dark wool coats in hotel rooms, the city is pretending as if ten thousand writers are not gathering here, as if it does not care, as if nothing in the air will change. At the Palmer House Hilton’s reception desk two novelists in line gossip about a boot wearing, red-dressed, long flat-ironed haired woman looking like an extra from a sixties flick: ‘Must be a poet–she is a poet, look at her hair,’ one says. The other whispers, ‘Look at those boots, impractical–must be a poet.’ They compare their relative fame with exaggerated politeness–it is a ritual of envy and admiration that will repeat itself every half hour at this conference. At night, I hang with poet Matthew Shenoda–we catch a few poets reading their work on a dim lit stage in a crowded bar I want to think was called Villains–it is the Cave Canem off-site reading, a reunion of sorts where hugging is pointless since bodies are pressed against each other in perpetual embrace. Ed Roberson, Jon Murrilo, C.M. Borroughs, and many, many more offer their poems to an audience that enjoys the rituals. My AWP nervousness crawls into my body–seeing the blurred faces of people I think I know–rushing through my brain’s database in search of a name, waiting for a hint, imagining nothing but shame at not recognizing people who I should know. Outside I wonder if it has always been hard for me to follow the thread of poems in dark, club-like spaces. Shenoda says he is too old for this, and he is younger than me. The Prairie Schooner team has been gathering–we now have a table, we now want people to come to that table and pick up goodies, buy journal issues, promise life long loyalty to us–a Marianne Kunkel is in her element–managing it all quite well. I will wear my Air Schooner t-shirt on Thursday–black with red markings. I am selling literature.”

As to the day of Marianne Kunkel, our Managing Editor–pictured above with Senior Poetry Reader Cody Lumpkin. She added:

“This morning when I checked into the hotel the person at the staff desk told me how nice the writers at AWP seem. This set the tone for the day–friendly interactions with the Copper Canyon staff, dinner with Peggy Shumaker and Fleda Brown, and a run-in in the lobby with UNL poetry professor Grace Bauer. There’s a lot of energy in the air this year, and it’s windy and rainy outside, so I’m hoping for a cozy and enthusiastic next few days with many tremendous writers.”

Don’t we all.

We’ll be providing daily updates from the conference and around Chicago in this space, so check back often.

If you’re at the conference, be sure to hit us up at the Book Fair. We’re stationed at O20. Many of our intelligent and hygiene-conscious staff will be working the table throughout the week with specials on subscriptions and information on the currently-open-to-submissions Book Prize series.

Below are a few Prairie Schooner related events you should check out too if you’re going to be at the conference tomorrow.

Thursday, March 1

From the Mawkish to the Remarkable: Addressing Sentimentality in Undergraduate Poetry Workshops
(9:00am-10:15am, Lake Huron, Hilton Chicago, 8th Floor)
A panel featuring Senior Poetry Readers Cody Lumpkin and Adrian Gibbons Koesters.

Poetry Video in the Shadow of Music Video-Performance, Document, and Film
(10:30am-11:45am, Boulevard Room A,B,C, Hilton Chicago, 2nd Floor)
A panel featuring Glenna Luschei Editor-in-Chief Kwame Dawes.

Modernist Nonfiction: Virginia Woolf and Her Contemporaries
(1:30pm-2:45pm, Wabash Room, Palmer House Hilton, 3rd Floor)
A panel featuring Joy Castro, creative writing faculty member.

Prairie Schooner Tenth Anniversary Book Prize Reading
(4:30pm, Wiliford A, Hilton Chicago, 3rd Floor)
Readings by Shane Book, Kara Candito, James Crews, Greg Hrbek, and Mari L’Esperance.