2.19.2009

AWP and community



Okay. okay.
Some people have been asking me for updates. I have neglected the blog, but as open book as I can be, this sharing aspects of my life on the web does not come easy. I only have myspace because of DJing, and I kinda hate it. I think I am the only person I know who doesn't have facebook. (I used to write a lot of letters, I am still know to do so. Antiquated, maybe, but I long for those.)

But I did want to write about this year's AWP conference in Chicago, hype some stuff, shout out to some people, think about community.

So here goes:

I understood better what I was getting into this year and I wasn't intimidated by being so close to so many famous, established writers. For one, I don't know what many of them look like and two, famous schmamous. I have tons of admiration for good writers, for good writing, but in human interactions I have much more admiration for smart, good people who I can connect with.
And AWP was good for reconnecting. For example, this being the third run-in, Adriana and I made the friendship official. There are some pics at her fancy website: Adriana Ramirez website Her best friend and classmate at Pitt, Jessica, was also lots of fun to hang out, talk shop and crash parties with. Good eggs.

Conference Highlights:

1.
Well, first, the poet Terrance Hayes killed it at the panel on Wallace Stevens. I would pay for a video. Is anyone out there has got it for when he took Stevens apart and put him back together again? It was a beautiful mix of critique, honor, humor and earnestness. I am trying to restraign myself from going on and on about his presentation. Because I didn't take notes and I can't convey it quite right. Among other aspects it involved: a diagram handout of the points he was thinking about covering, a poem was also on this handout though reportedly it was not the amazing poem that he read at the end of his talk, there were a lot of references that likely slipped past some audience memembers, like to Chuck D, and, related, there were a lot of comments that plenty of people in the audience didn't seem sure they got to laugh at, the crowd cheered.
I looked Hayes up, and there is just not enough on the web. Below is a nice poem and video of him reading another poem. Suggested. terrance hayes poem terrance hayes video on youtube

2.
VONA Tribute. The Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation marked ten years with what I just want to call a love fest. VONA is a summer workshop in San Francisco for writers of color (see below in this blog for more) and it has positively affected many, many writers throughout its run. It is a unique space and the instructors and staff are all beautifully committed to the work (that they only receive minimal compensation for). The writers/instructors Elmaz Abinader, David Mura, Willie Perdomo and Faith Adiele all read and then the "questions" from the audience turned into more of a testimonial session about how great VONA is, how much those who have attended felt that they got out of it and more and more love. It was really sweet. Was nice to see the author Mat Johnson, who was my instructor last summer, there as well. I spoke with him afterwards and even as I write this I am jazzed about his continued support of me and my work-- this is what I mean with VONA I guess-- they don't have to do it but they do. Community and acceptance that is too rare, that makes me kinda sappy.

3.
Latinos in Lotusland reading. This was a crew of readers who are in this Southern California Literature Anthology. It was good to finally meet Michael Jaime-Becerra (who writes about, among other things, punk rock Chicanos). Always good to see Manuel Munoz (a dear, see raves elsewhere in this blog). Kathleen Alcala and Estella Gonzalez also read and I was glad for the introduction to their work. Good stuff. The anthology has been out for awhile from Bilingual Press and also includes work by Salvador Plascencia, Alex Espinoza, Luis Alberto Urrea, Daniel Chacon and Helena Maria Viramontes among many others. It was nice to be there and talk again with folks that I had met over the course of the conference, Miguel and Cesar in particular. A nice sense of a Latino writing community-- which is definitely something most of us don't get everyday.


Off-site Highlights:

1.
Con Tinta is an organization that promotes the the Chicano/Latino literary community and the bringing together that AWP facilitates is the catalyst for this annual celebration (this year held at a Puerto Rican restuarant called Coco's, mmmm fried platanos). A nice evening to chill and talk to people. There was a tribute to the artist and poet Carlos Cortez, who I found out used to work with the IWW. That took me back (long story of connections). Also, recognition of Patti Hartmann, former editor of the Camino del Sol Series at the University of Arizona Press.
Thanks to all the organizers for the event, the free food, and again (do you sense a theme?) that sense of community that is rad.

2.
2nd Sun Salon: Lucky Friday Underground. Who wasn't excited to be at this event? I've been describing it as a penthouse... and maybe, technically it wasn't (not so sure of my definitions on the foo-foo) but it was the 25th floor or something, a big room with a big view-- overlooking Chicago. Fancy digs for sure. Alcohol, nice food, big art on big walls, professional DJ even I had to respect (though there was no actual vinyl)... you get the idea. Thank you again Roger Reeves for inviting me to tag along. We arrived at the spot and there were quite a few people downstairs who weren't being let up by security because they weren't on the list. Somehow we all got in through because Roger was on the list-- though none of us could find the way in to the elevators. Which was really funny. Security had to point out that the big glass wall was actually the door. Oh. Oops, we'd just all exposed ourselves as being of lower-rent.
Anyways, back upstairs-- great readings from these poets: avery r. young, Shirlette Ammons, John Murillo, Krista Franklin, and Duriel E. Harris. The last two listed, Krista and Duriel, are the founders of 2nd Sun Salon and they hosted the event along with Lisa Lee. At one point in the evening, one of the announcers said that the room was their Harlem Renaissance, a contemporary salon where people come together and make their own. A big claim maybe, I felt like there was almost a pause in the room once it was said... but also, no one argued. There was a truth in that that and I was glad to have the opportunity to attend. I would guess that that is how most of those in attendance that night felt as well.
Though I didn't know most of the people in the room (and this is a good thing, we should not always be talking to and learning from ourselves/to those we already know) it was nice to see some of the VONA instructors in attendance. I got to chat briefly with the poet David Mura which was overdue.

3.
Rolling around Chicago. It was sweet to be in a city again. My platonic boyfriend, Nate, came with to Chicago and we had grand plans for dumpstering, wandering and generally getting into trouble. Not as much of that as we'd have liked. Can't say we weren't ambitious though. Below are some pics from our 4 hour walk through the city. From Ralph Darden's (thanks again Ralph! Sad to have not gotten to see you since you were DJing on a cruise ship... Readers, look him up, he is DJ Major Taylor and overall rocker)apartment in Logan Square to the Hilton downtown where the conference was. Fun times for sure but why didn't we bring two bikes?
The picture up top top is from the Mexican Restaurant we went to on Valentines morn. The taxidermy provided us with fond thoughts of Laramie. We recovered with huevos y menudo. This, after a ruckus of an evening where Nate and Roger found out that they both know the same guy in Austin who goes by the name of Hotpants.
Love it.
Nate liked to take our picture in the reflections of buildings.
I think I was just excited.

1 comment:

bnz said...

Yes! I am so glad you updated this thing! ok, i actually am commenting before I've read the whole thing, but you know, I saw the bit about famous shmamous and I got excited.
Anyway, i got your postcard, what's your address... i have more thoughts for you (email me at annamwhitehead@gmail.com).

You are the bomb I miss you.