Thursday, March 01, 2007

AWP day one part two

I am with my people. Yay! The stew of language lovers, wordsmiths, intellectuals and freaks. AWP has ‘em all.

So. Attended an interesting seminar this afternoon with the catchy title: Losing the Linebreaks. It was a forum of poets dealing with their guilt at having written (and been paid for writing) nonfiction. Scandalous!

I’ve attended the inverse of this seminar many times. It’s called “How to steal from poets and approach the lyric register” or “How to put soul into your prosaic prose.” Nonfiction writers huddled above the magic lamp, looking for their turn to rub it and witness the Genie of Verse. O, the enjambment! The cadence! The obtuse-yet-profound!

Genre-bending from the poet’s perspective is a lot more sober. (As one would expect.) The seminar took on a bit of a support group tone with panelists wringing their hands in Faustian angst: “How to we deal with the guilt of it all—writing accessibly?”

The through-line was, of course, Baby needs a new pair of shoes. Similar sentiment bespake in my earlier post, yes? And then, heavens, what if you actually enjoy it? Writing for the mediocre reader? What then?

I found the seminar amusing, and, in turn, delightful. One panelist in particular,
Jennifer Hecht, summed up the quantitative nature of writing time thus: “You’d make more money if you gave that afternoon of poetry-writing to prose.”


(And, as a side note, she also, as a devout atheist, had the most interesting pro-religion statement ever: “Its value is in being the repository for behaviors that allow people to transcend.” Okay, okay, maybe she was my favorite because she’s a scientist-historian sorta empiricist and I’ve got this fabulous science teacher boyfriend and I’m totally prejudiced in favor of the scientific explanation for everything all of a sudden. Whatever.)

At one point during the seminar a disgruntled audience member stood up and begged to differ after a panelist seemingly dissed the personal essay as “easily replicated” and therefore never under consideration for publication in the small press she edits. That’s when it got fun.

You got the purists standing up: “make sacrifices in other ways, stay pure with your writing. Don’t sully the well with normative drivel.” And then, in response, the few non-poets: “What makes you think writing poetry is harder than writing prose?” Food fight at AWP! Can’t wait ‘til tomorrow!

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