life, poetry, publishing, teaching, Uncategorized, writers, writing

The Obligatory Pre-AWP Blog Post

It took long enough, but AWP (the Association of Writers and Writing Programs) has finally come to Tampa. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be reading, learning, and buddying around with some of the finest literary minds in our nation and beyond. Lots of writers have documented their social anxieties and their expectations about AWP in their blogs, even going so far as to provide their packing list and playlists for the occasion.

I think I’ll take a different approach: Insofar as this is my first AWP, I have virtually no preconceived notions about “elevator pitches” or slick networking. No, I’m a poet, and as such, I’m relieved of some of the burdens shouldered by my brethren in prose. I don’t really have an agenda, per se, or some product I’m trying to get discovered. To an extent, this commerce-less status of mine has its advantages: I can show up, enjoy the events, and calmly peruse the book fair and other areas with the placidity of a sunning turtle.

If I happen across some of my literary heroes, great. If I bump into representatives of prestigious programs or fellowships, likewise. But honestly, I am quite content these days. From a literary-life standpoint, I’m satisfied: I have a sweet little teaching gig at a college that pays well, I have time to pursue my writing endeavors, and in my new home, I even have a writing room overlooking a pond. I guess I could thirst for a Pulitzer or worry myself sick over who got published where and who won what award, but to what avail? Nah, just partaking in the craft is my mode these days. Write a little, submit a little, let the chips fall where they may. It has taken me 30 years, but I’ve learned that the best things come to those with peace and balance. And friends, I’ve got peace and balance to spare.

So, if this post seems a little capricious or even cocksure, it’s not because I’m apathetic or egomaniacal, it’s just that I’m settled. AWP or no, I know I will return to my house at the end of everything, kiss my wife, hug my boys, and go on writing. Sure, there are stories about people who met agents or editors there and had their lives changed, but my aims are not quite so grandiose. I want to see my friends, read my work, have a good time, and learn a few things along the way. That’s not too much to ask. Because once all the banners come down and the convention center empties, life will resume with its bills to pay, its mouths to feed, and its little moments of inspiration. And I will keep seizing those moments with serenity and equanimity; ink will flow, lines will live, and poetry will continue.

In the meantime, I’ll take in the hubbub of AWP with the fascination of a kid at the state fair. No, I haven’t developed a “plan,” as so many guides indicate I should, and I haven’t visited Walmart to pick up the “mandatory” supplies. I’m local, after all, and if I need something, it’s maybe half an hour to my place. So, thank you to all those diligent souls who have tirelessly composed epistles and listicles in preparation for this event. But I think I’ll just ride this wave in to shore like Floridians do. And if I miss out on “the main attraction” or “the big deal,” so be it. This isn’t life or death, and on Monday, there will be students to teach and poems to write. Chill out, my literary comrades; this is Tampa. We take things easy here.

poetry, Uncategorized

Of networking, socializing, and writerly introversion

Here’s how you know you’re surrounded by a bunch of people more comfortable at their desks than at a party: When there’s a reception or a gala of some sort, these people act like the grown-up versions of that poor reject by the punch bowl at a junior high dance. They flock to their comfort zone partners (friends, acquaintances, etc.) and stay there until the last possible moment they can leech off that person’s quietly generic conversation (“How about this weather we’ve been having?”). Then, they quickly rush over to the food/drink/other provisions and get something to occupy their hands. Next, the “I’m terribly important” brisk walking begins. Not schmoozing, not gracefully pirouetting from group to group dropping casual bits of dialogue, none of that. Just hastily traversing the entire room as if the earth’s precise gravitational orbit hinges upon their hip sockets’ speed.
OK, so they’ve made the inadequate conversation, they’ve made merry with food and drink, they’ve marched about visibly as if official, so now it must be time for the wallflower slow fade. This is the part where the people in question position themselves along an exterior wall, gradually inching toward the exit so as not to have make the uncomfortable announcement that they’re leaving early. This is handiest if there is a large trash receptacle near the aforementioned exit. They toss the cup/plate away, and WHOOSH! disappear through the nearby door like Zorro jumping for his legendary black horse.
Such is the party life of the introverted writer with unresolved social anxiety disorder. How do I know? I am one of these people. I posit this reflection only to judge myself, mostly, and provide myself with the impetus to change. Perhaps this year, during my MFA opening and closing receptions, I’ll try, just TRY, to be more Gatsby and less Mort Rainey. But it’s a process, guys and girls. Bear with me.