Once again, AWP confounded us. We’re so busy with the pandemonium of the bookfair and seeing old friends and making new ones that we didn’t Tweet or Instagram once during the entire three days. But, back in Lubbock, work as usual, we’ve gathered our thoughts. Here’s our take on AWP 2016.
Best Interactive Bookfair Table
Ok, look, we don’t like tooting our own horn, but the IHLR Derby was so popular and so fun, we’ll be doing it again next year and maybe even making it an AWP institution. If you missed it, you’ll want to visit our table next year. Prizes: free subscriptions, free issues, our famous books of sticky notes, and IHLR Submittable passes! Plus, who doesn’t want to listen to our editors make like sports announcers and call the races?
Most Beautiful Moment
When Jason Bradford passed this spring, he had recently submitted some poems to IHLR. And they were phenomenal. So we took one (only one because we thought we should share with the other journals who might also have the same poems in their submission piles) and then dedicated our forthcoming NaPoMo issue to him. To make Bradford’s contribution to IHLR even more poignant for us, his mother stopped by our table at AWP, with another of Jason’s poems. It was lovely to meet her and to hear how much she loved her son. This is the poem she shared with folks at AWP. Bradford was surely gifted and will be missed just as assuredly. It is a great loss for the poetry world.
Most Powerful “City of Angels” Panel: Women Write LA
As one of the most diverse artistic regions in the country, Los Angeles is home to female writers who come from different neighborhoods and backgrounds and offer unique perspectives on the city of angels. Panelists led a passionate discussion about the city’s history and its present—and the responsibility of prose writers to get it right with historical facts and specificity. One of the panelists, Helena Viramontes, kept saying, “Give me a street name! I want street names! I want bodies! I want to see!” As an added bonus, the panelists passed out woodcut bookmarks memorializing the conversation.
Panel We’re Sorry We Missed: Crossing and Poetic Truth: Lyric nonfictions, reported poems
[Panelists: Tess Taylor , Camille Dungy , Robert Polito, Tom Sleigh, and Brian Turner] We love writers who push the boundaries of any genre. This group talked about the cross between poetry and nonfiction? How does the lyric voice work in nonfiction? What is a documentary poem and what can poets teach documentarians? Yeah, we wish we’d been there.
Favorite Book Series We Didn’t Know About
Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons. Check out these lovely “compact” books on quotidian objects that have had historical significance, from golf balls, hoods, hotels, driver’s licenses, drones, and much, much more.
Best Human Rights Project at AWP
We came to our table one morning and found a note from the Brooklyn Arts Press Table, asking for donations of unused, extra hotel toiletries, which they were taking the time to gather and deliver to the Ocean Park Community Center’s Sojourn program, which helps survivors of domestic violence and at-risk youth. Beautiful! Check out their Tumblr page.
Best Marriage Proposal at AWP
At the BOA Editions 40th anniversary reading, the audience was introduced to the winner of BOA’s “What is your ideal reading experience?” contest—which asked folks to write a personal narrative describing a beautiful reading experience. The winner, Adam Wetch, wrote about his girlfriend comparing him to the central figure in Li-Young Lee’s poem “Virtues of the Boring Husband.” The young man wrote that at first he found this comparison a bit disparaging. But then one day, while reading aloud to his girlfriend, he found that suddenly his girlfriend had fallen asleep. He was disappointed that apparently the sound of his voice was enough to put her to sleep. He thought back to Lee’s poem. Eventually he realized what a beautiful moment this was, holding his girlfriend in his arms as she peacefully slept. He felt gratitude towards Lee’s poem for helping him appreciate the moment, to pay attention more fully and tenderly. He was in the audience of BOA’s Anniversary Reading with his girlfriend. They went up to the stage together to receive the prize: a signed copy of Li-Young Lee’s new chapbook, The Word from His Song. They accepted the prize, shook Lee’s hand. Then the young man got down on one knee. Everyone in the audience gasped or clapped or said, “Oh my god,” or some variation. And the young woman said yes. And then there was a standing ovation. We couldn’t believe we had just witnessed: A marriage proposal. At AWP. At a poetry reading. At a celebration of words and what words can do.
At the same BOA reading, our managing editor, Chen Chen, was announced as this year’s winner of the Poulin Poetry Prize. He also met the judge, Jericho Brown, who was so generous as to visit at length with Chen about his manuscript. Chen’s forthcoming collection, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, will be released next spring.
Grist, for once again partnering with IHLR to host an off-site reading. Always a pleasure. So many gifted readers and a full house!
And Final Thanks to:
Whoever those folks were who voted for IHLR editor, Leslie Jill Patterson, as best editor, during the AWP16 Oscar's competition hosted by the Mid-American Review table.