ONE VOWEL SHY OF A MIRACLE: why i don’t attend (Y)AWP

by George Wallace on March 28, 2012

      for a couple of years now people have been asking me why i don’t attend AWP and i always give an excuse. but this year, i decided to stop weaseling out of it, and tell people how i really feel — why should i pay a couple of hundred bucks to stand at the edge of the red carpet and cheer while the self-proclaimed celebrities of american poetry swan past?
      i don’t think whitman would’ve done it. bukowski? forget about it. and if hunter s thompson went to AWP, he’d probably arrive so fucked up he wouldn’t be able to distinguish a pulitzer prize from a performing seal.
      AWP! i’m sorry, but it sounds like a sea mammal squawking for fish.
      now i wouldn’t go so far as some hardened curmudgeons who call AWP a convention of self-congratulatory, ladder-climbing, back-slapping careerists. that would be overgeneralizing, rude, and probably dangerous. a lot of most excellent people go — hey, some of them are my FRIENDS — and besides there are some smart folks out there, with careers to protect and long knives to protect them with.
      and besides, the fact that anyone in this beautiful ridiculous country of ours could devote themselves to the art of poetry is miracle, and ought to be celebrated.
      but at the risk of losing a tenure track or being accused of having called a consontant a vowel, i just can’t bring myself to attend AWP. call me a beatnik!
      i’m just following the dictum of whitman — ‘who makes much of a miracle’ in and of itself, he asks — ‘i know of nothing else but miracles.’ what i mean is sure, american poetry is a miracle, in whatever form it takes. but everything’s a miracle – so now what?
      i think what walt urges us do is shake off careerism and celebrate our barbaric YAWP — the rough and tumble, free voice of the plugged-in, transcendental individual american soul-spirit. that’s where authenticity lies, and purpose. that’s where we can find the big WHY in why we ought to write, to share — to celebrate ourselves and each other in a community of writers.
      translation: there’s a Y in whitman’s YAWP. i just don’t see a Y — or a why — in AWP. and until i do, i ain’t paying no $250 to go.
      if i DO go, you’ll find me stoned out of my skull in the hotel swimming pool with hunter s thompson.

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