Tuesday, February 05, 2008

NYC and AWP Redux

I didn't keep a log of those I met and didn't meet at AWP in New York City this year, though I can say I was sad not to spend more time with folks like Gina Franco, who I always seemed to see only in quick passing, or Jake Adam York (thanks, Jake, for the very kind words at the end of the reading, and for a copy of your beautiful book; and sorry I missed a good search for good beer on Saturday afternoon). Such is AWP.

What made AWP so great for me this year really has little to do with the conference itself, with a few notable exceptions (sitting behind the Terrain.org table as a matter of sanctuary rather than roaming, head swinging into dizziness, the bookfair's maze of corridors; and the strong "The Future of Environmental Panel" panel on Saturday with Alison Hawthorne Deming, David Gessner, David Rothenberg, and Lauret Savoy; more on that below).

What made it so great was the city itself (see my The Next American City blog entry for more on that), the extracurricular events like the Salmon: A Journey in Poetry anthology launch and reading at the Bowery Poetry Club on Saturday night, and meeting and enjoying the company of folks I hadn't met before (Suzanne Frischkorn and Shann Palmer, among others) or I hadn't seen in many years (David Rothenberg and Philip Fried and Deborah Fries, for example). Then there were the marathon walks across Manhattan and Brooklyn with fellow explorer and Terrain.org editorial board member Scott Calhoun.

So below are some photos and stories and such that define this year's AWP for me:

A little concrete lion love in front of the main branch of the New York Public Library (photo by Scott Calhoun). I'd wager that Scott and I walked a good 40 miles in the four and a half days we were in New York, most of those in the evening. Plus we took the subway whenever we could. New York's subway system, at least the entrances and exits, are as confusing as I can imagine, but the system itself is still workable, efficient.

Here, Scott Calhoun (right) and I work the Terrain.org table, located way up on the third level of the bookfair (photo courtesy Dennis Lee). From my limited excursions down to the other levels, I'd say we received quite a bit less traffic than the lower floors. But at least we had great daylighting and open spaces, which the lowest level couldn't boast. I enjoyed the table both because I could meet lots of folks, and because it's much less stressful, I think, behind the table than roaming among them. Still, I had to wear my marketing hat and almost literally lasso people over to tell them about the journal. So it goes.

Many thanks to the table volunteers: Scott, Deborah Fries, Shann Palmer, and contributor and former UA MFA classmate Stephanie Eve Boone.

Will we have a table at AWP in Chicago next year? Not sure. I've learned what to do and not to do, but there's also an ASLE conference in Victoria, B.C. in 2009 I'd rather attend. And funds, as always, are quite limited.

The highlight of the trip, and it's hard to choose among several worthy events, was the Terrain.org 10th Anniversary Reading, featuring contributors old and new. The Cornelia Street Cafe (shown here with Scott Calhoun) was packed. It was great to finally meet contributors Scott Edward Anderson, Suzanne Frischkorn, Donna J. Gelagotis Lee, Shann Palmer, and Andrew Wingfield; great also to catch up with Teague Bohlen, Philip Fried, Deborah Fries, Dennis Must, David Rothenberg, and Jake Adam York. It was a pleasure, too, finally meeting Angelo Verga, Cornelia Street's literary events director.

(Deborah Fries reads poetry, above.) Dinner following the reading was divine, and I must specifically point out a new craft brew I hadn't had before, because it was among the best of hundreds I've yet had: Magic Hat #9 Not Quite Pale Ale, brewed in Vermont. Really great stuff, and yet another reason to travel to Vermont this summer if I can!

The other literary highlight was chairing the panel titled "The Future of Environmental Essay," which included Alison Hawthorne Deming (above, photo by Scott Calhoun), David Gessner, David Rothenberg, and Lauret Savoy (below, photo by Scott Calhoun). Each panelist's presentation was unique, intriguing, inspiring.

There was (of course, I think) no consensus as to the future of what we might call "environmental essay," a term despised by the write David Quammen. But there was a real energy to the presentations and follow-on discussion, and the next issue of Terrain.org will feature these presentations in text (and perhaps audio) format. I can tell you that Lauret's concluding presentation nearly made me cry in its beauty and poise and frankness. Thank you, Lauret; and thanks to all the panelists!

Following the panel, I (photo above, left) joined David Gessner (middle), David Rothenberg (right), Scott Calhoun, and Stephanie Boone for lunch at a wonerful, randomly-selected Thai restaurant in the neighborhood called Hell's Kitchen. (Photo courtesy Scott Calhoun.)

There we learned that David and David are old Harvard classmates. We also had great fun gossiping about other writers of place. If you haven't heard David Rothenberg's impersonations of Rick Bass and Barry Lopez, among others, you're missing something grand. The photo above is David R., David G., me (eyes closed, much to my shagrin), and Stephanie, courtesy Scott Calhoun.

Here I am reading at the Salmon Poetry reading, which was really great (photo by Scott Calhoun). It was wonderful to hear fellow Salmon poets read, some of whom I'd met but not heard read, but most of whom I'd not yet met before the conference or reading.

Finally, I am delighted to report that Scott and I spent many a wonderful evening with Suzanne Frischkorn, to whom we send out the above poem, coauthored by Scott and me at the amazing Haitian restaurant Krik Krak. "Krik Krak," by the way, is a call and response in Haiti. If someone says, "Krik," you say "Krak" in response, to hear a story.

The poem alternates lines, beginning with Scott and ending with me (I have the last two, I see):

First Draft @ Krik Krak
2-2-08 (Groundhog Day)

You asked
whether the world, this bookish world,
could accommodate a cowboy--
we're here to tell you--maybe.
But, on the other hand,
the world is much like a Haitian restaurant:
it burns like a Scotch-
bonnet, like the
walls of this scented room: ochre and

(Intermission for Cabrit En Sause and Poulet Maison)

blackened with the smoke of
our love. But for whom? Why, for you!
Sometimes a little love
is like a little Bouillen Haitien:
only served on Saturday,
an empty day without you (and me, and
me). And AWP!


I plan to post Terrain.org 10th Anniversary Reading and "The Future of Environmental Essay" panel image galleries in the next few days.


Suzanne said...

((blush)) I love you guys. xoxo

Matthew Thorburn said...

Great photos and stories -- and poem! It's wonderful that you guys were able to get out and walk around and see so much of the city. It really is a great place for just wandering and exploring!

Sheryl said...

Sorry I missed you Simmons. Maybe next time.

Lauren said...

it looks so much fun and i wish i could have been there!!!

Ivy said...

Hey, I did that thing with the lions, too, when I was there! Too cool. :-)

Simmons B. Buntin said...

Thanks guys. Lauren, I wish you could have been there, too!