There were over 300 seminars, lectures, readings and receptions to choose from at AWP this year. I attended ten, and they were pretty much the same ten. In a candy store the size of Disneyworld, I reached for my favorite confection again and again and again. And I say this without remorse or regret. No shrugged shoulders. Not one smack of palm to forehead.
It’s been confirmed (once more) that the possibilities, the vagaries, the enormously generous plain of consciousness—as opposed to the words and ideas themselves—is why I do this thing. This writing thing.
I therefore cannot report on the AWP at large, for I wasn’t present at the cross-section of poets, prose writers, teachers and lit critics. Not one homage did I attend. Not one Writing Program hullabaloo. Oh sure, I had them circled in my program, but when it came time to sit in a banquet chair in front of a panel of experts, I found myself crawling back for more genre-bending, literary nonfiction-loving, lyric essay-lauding Geek Speak.
The electric passion of a writer who explores his subject and material without allegiance to normative literary boundaries is a drug to me. David Shields, Nick Flynn, Steven Church, Michael Martone, Brenda Miller, Judith Kitchen—these are my heroes. Their common refrain approaches the anti-brand in its commitment to artistic integrity.
Shields went as far as to define the function of art as an attempt to bridge the gap between separate consciousnesses. He expressed that literary nonfiction is a framing device to foreground thought, producing clear thinking about mixed feelings. Lucid deconstruction which results in nurturing active reading.
As a writer who often has a hard time locating my own writing on the genre wheel, I appreciated the emphasis on loyalty to serious and unflinching exploration of material above pedantic allegiance to facts and formalized story-telling.
Borrowing from poetry, the idea of enjambment—of juxtaposing one thing with another in a way that’s unique to a particular consciousness—as an invitation to the reader’s deeper thought patterns and sensibilities encourages, in my humble opinion, a fundamentally intimate connection with the audience.
So with a 6:35 flight tomorrow, I’m tucking myself in early—all done with AWP Atlanta, and happily sated with my version of bliss. I’m counting on some vivid electric dreams tonight.