The AWP (or Association of Writers and Writing Programs) is a weekend conference held in a different city each year. Due to landing an upcoming editing job through my university (SOU), I was lucky enough to receive student funding to attend this years conference, held in the convention center in Denver.
Panels, readings, intense social networking, and off-site events are just a few of the things one can experience by attending the AWP, on top of the massive book fair where presses of all sizes sell books, chapbooks, memorabilia, and anything and everything a writer’s heart may desire.
I took this trip with the current editor of SOU’s West Wind Review, Greta Mikkelsen, and my advisor/poetry teacher/upcoming boss/BFF, K. Silem Mohammad. The trip was worth it even if just for the insights and great conversations I was able to share not only with these 2 amazing people, but with Kasey’s large group of poetry/writer friends whom I was able to meet, dine and drink with.
The bookfair is probably the coolest aspect of the AWP, as well as the most difficult. Held in a huuuuugge cafeteria style room, there are simply more tables than one could possible visit, even during a weekends time. You are sometimes forced to “judge a press by it’s cover,” as there’s so much digging for treasure to be done but simply too much treasure to dig for…Ahhhh!!! With Kasey by my side, I often was able to meet the right people and score some free books and journals; by the last day of the conference, a lot of book trading goes on as well.
Off-site events that I attended included a massive poetry reading at a tiny local bar as well as a flarf/conceptual reading held at Denver’s MOMA, followed by a reception on the rooftop cafe where “flarftinis” were served; I can’t tell you the exact mix of alcohol that was in that drink, but the gummy worm resting in the bottom of the glass should tell you all you need to know.
Anywhere from about 5,000 to 9,000 people attend the AWP, according to recent statistics heard by word of mouth, and student registration this year was only $40 for full access to everything! It is a great event, and on top of feeling like a weekend-long party, I actually learned a lot and received great bits of advice and inspiration to help craft my own writing. The panels (in the format of poetry/fiction readings, discussions, presentation of papers written specifically for certain topics, and q&a with the audience) are the kind of thing you’ll find yourself taking notes during. I attended an amazing panel on Gurlesque where 6 young female poets, all included in the first Gurlesque anthology (out now from Saturnalia books), shared their amazingly diverse poems, 1 of which even included a song! I also attended a flarf and conceptualism (turned flarf VS. conceptualism) panel which included my teacher, Kasey, along with 5 other amazing experimental poets: Vanessa Place, Christian Bok, Mel Nichols, Katie Degentesh, and Mathew Timmons.
I will be attending the event next year as the “official” editor of West Wind, which means a trip to Washington D.C. and another review can be expected next spring!