Sunday, March 29, 2009
“It’s fully operational...”
As long as we’re in lingering in professional dystopia, it seems appropriate to consider once again that yearly pilgrimage to AWP, wherein we shall tender our scrip. When you think about it, the world of poetry could arguably be compared to one big company store. All profit, effort, and professional reciprocity sort of stay within the compound, as it were. It’s a profoundly closed system.
[This might not seem so surprising when viewed in the light of a line from David Bosworth’s “The Cult of the Adolescent”: “Imagine the consequences for a readership bequeathed a generation of authors who believe that ‘language only refers to itself...’”]
Of course, unlike past corporate megaliths, aside from a tiny trickle, our product doesn’t actually flow into the outside world. Oh, and we don’t get machine-gunned in the dead of night. So that’s a plus.
[In case there’s any doubt, this is not meant to be a serious metaphor, as even teaching 5/5 at East Jesus State College--while potentially wildly incompatible with a happy and carefree writing life and the performance of extracurricular higher cognitive functions--is clearly not on par with Third World suffering and Banana Republic atrocities.]
The latest dustup about the legitimacy/relevance/absurdity of AWP makes for amusing reading. Does anyone really believe that the conference is the Death Star of creative writing? Of course, there seems to be (understandably) a lot of bad feeling around it due to recent events. [Upon hearing that the conference was sold out, I entertained myself by trying to follow the metaphor through to the end. It’s not like there are only 5,000 poetry widgets, or widget booths. The notion of an author’s content “running out” is kind of a neat idea.]
I find myself neither a partisan nor an advocate, but as one who goes and finds writers behaving exactly like other conventioneers (though without the red fezzes or tiny cars): getting drunk, hooking up, schmoozing out of habit, reflex, or sheer performativity, but mostly talking shop. Despite the sentiment above, an excuse to talk shop for three solid days without the overt sense of violating social norms of conversation is pretty cool, even if by the end I begin to wish I was an accountant.
[Though the ability of the creative writing subculture to comment on itself is perhaps unsurpassed by other subcultures, unless you make the leap to cults (who tend to somewhat uncritical.) I suppose this is a form of honesty.]
And there’s all sorts of accidental bonuses, such the time I went to see one of my favorite authors on a panel. As another panelist was holding forth, said author slowly lowered her head until she was face down on the table. I couldn’t tell if it was despair, exhaustion, or reverie, but I enjoyed the gesture nonetheless.