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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

AWP Weekend Round-Up

A recap of AWP experiences by Kore author Heather Cousins,
author of Something in the Potato Room.

While I was volunteering at the AWP table, Patricia Smith came by. Patricia selected my book for the 2009 Kore Press First Book Award. This was the first time that I have spoken to her in person; it was wonderful to be able to grab her and hug her to thank her for selecting my manuscript. She was sweet and encouraging. I gave her three big hugs. And she smelled like poetry. Just kidding. About smelling like poetry. I'm not sure what poetry smells like. She just smelled nice and warm. I also got to meet Carolyn Forche while volunteering at the table. She came by to autograph copies of broadsheets of one of her poems that Kore produced. She and Patricia and Barbara Cully were all at the table at once, and I was scrambling around looking for a pen for Carolyn to sign broadsheets and hugging Patricia and trying not to knock over the Kore table and feeling like my head was going to explode at the thought of all the amazing women and poetry powers gathered in one small space!

I gave Carolyn a signed copy of my book, telling her, as I handed it over, apologetically, "You don't have to read it." Patricia laughed kindly at me and told me to never say such a thing about my work. She said, "Whoa! Have we got a lot to teach you!" Then she laughed and put a wise hand on my back. Patricia gave me a much-needed jolt of power, strength, and confidence.

I was impressed by the number of people, while working the Kore table, who came by and expressed a love and interest in Kore Press. There were also many women who stopped who were not familiar with Kore and who, when I explained the Press's project of publishing women writers, stood up a little straighter and got a little glimmer in their eye and said something to the effect of: This is so important. Or, there need to be more publisher's--like this--for women's voices. I got into conversations with several women about the failure this year of Publishers Weekly to recognize any works written by women in their list of the "Best Books of 2009." There were also several brief, but important conversations about the marginalization of women's perspectives and women's voices. I found this marginalization of women's spaces, lives, and writing brought up in panels that I hadn't thought would necessarily address , including Thursday's panel with Cate Marvin, Malachi Black, Dean Young, Jerry Harp, and Roger Reeves, "Toward a New Criticism," and in Saturday's panel "Hot/Not: A Panel on Sentiment," with Joy Katz, Sally Ball, Mark Bibbins, Jenny Browne, and Sarah Vap. Vap presented a paper that I thought was particularly eloquent and beautiful. Several writers in this last panel addressed the idea that the sentimental is often, problematically, connected with the lives and emotions of women and children.

I also attended the WILLA Benefit at the Denver Press Club on Friday night, which was a wonderful event in support of women writers. It featured burlesque dancers and roller derby girls, as well as some great poets: Patricia Smith, Kim Addonizio, Dorianne Laux, Cathy Park Hong, Ana Bozicevic, and two of my own friends, who earned PhDs in creative writing from the University of Georgia: Lara Glenum and Danielle Pafunda.