Greetings! I am at home, sitting in my comfy chair, slowly recovering from the intensity of three full days at the 2011 AWP Conference. Is anyone reading this unfamiliar with AWP? It used to stand for "Associated Writing Programs," or something similar, but it's worded a bit more broadly now. The main thing to know is that it is the organization that hosts an annual gathering of writers from all across the country. We descend upon some poor hotels in a nice-sized city (this year, Washington, D.C.) and talk shop (about writing, publishing, editing, and teaching writing) until we drop.
Along with panels on various subjects and readings galore, there is a huge, 3-day bookfair, where you can get all the books you can't find on the lousy shelves of your local chain bookstore without shipping. While I am too exhausted -- and have too much class prep ahead of me -- to write about the experience in any detail, I offer instead a list of the books I came home with, about which I am very excited (roughly in order of trim size, from smallest to largest, because that's how they're stacked here next to me):
Strata, by Ewa Chrusciel (Emergency Press) -- poetry; proof copy; winner of the 2009 Emergency Press International Book Contest
Placed: Karesansui Poems, by Carol Snow (Counterpath Press) -- poetry; a scenic tour of the English language prepositions
Fasting for Ramadan: Essays, by Kazim Ali (Tupelo Press) -- prose; proof copy; daily blogs and journal entries
Head Off & Split, by Nikky Finney (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern) -- poetry; long-awaited book by a poet who has truth-telling on her mind
the eco language reader, edited by Brenda Iijima (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs/Nightboat Books) -- prose; ecocriticism with an eye for innovative poetics; about time I owned my own copy
Daily Sonnets, by Laynie Browne (Counterpath Press) -- poetry; sonnets without all that unnecessary rhyme and meter
Glass Is Really a Liquid, by Bruce Covey (No Tell Books) -- poetry; have wanted this book since I heard him read at the Decatur Book Festival last fall
The Requited Distance, by Rachel Eliza Griffiths (Sheep Meadow Press) -- poetry; because my girl is prolific as well as talented (her Miracle Arrhythmia hasn't been out ten minutes and she's got a new book!)
Issue 7 of Cave Wall, a journal edited by Rhett Iseman Trull -- poetry and art; Rhett and I studied with Lucille Clifton together at Duke, back in 1997 or '98, and she's gone on to do lovely things in/for poetry
Either Way I'm Celebrating, by Sommer Browning (Birds LLC) -- poetry and comics; I already know this is going to make me laugh so much that it will be dangerous to drink while reading
Aviaries, by Yvonne C. Murphy (Carolina Wren Press) -- poetry; winner of the most recent Carolina Wren Press Poetry Prize, judged by Minnie Bruce Pratt (whose new CWP book, Inside the Money Machine, I also acquired, though it isn't in my possession at the moment)
Amnesiac, by Duriel E. Harris (Sheep Meadow Press) -- poetry; but poetry like you don't see it every day; I was fortunate to have published a piece or two from this collection in the special issue of MiPOesias I guest-edited a few years ago
Issue 15 of Copper Nickel, edited by a group of folks, including a new poet-friend, Jake Adam York -- poetry, prose, and art (color insets!); looking forward to checking this big, pretty, glossy mag out
Survey Graphic: Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro, edited by Alain Locke (Black Classic Press) -- poetry, prose, art, ads; in fact, an exact reproduction of the special issue of the issue of Survey Graphic from March 1925 that put the New Negro Renaissance into the literary world's consciousness
Quantum Spit: A Poem, by Douglas Kearney (Corollary Press) -- poetry; hard to call it a book, since it is published on sheets of stiff paper the size and shape of an LP (under 30's, go look that up) which come inside a sleeve that's just like an album cover; did I say fantastically creative?
Addendum -- books I tried to get but stupidly waited until Saturday to make purchases when these were already sold out:
Discipline, by Dawn Lundy Martin (Nightboat Books) -- poetry; winner of the 2009 Nightboat Poetry Prize
Bringing the Shovel Down, by Ross Gay (U of Pittsburgh P) -- poetry; I already know this will be the lyric equivalent of single-malt scotch
Last Seen, Jacqueline Jones LaMon (U of Wisconsin P) -- poetry; winner of the 2011 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry
If I weren't exhausted and behind in my life, I'd link to the publishers' ordering pages for all of these books (and maybe I will later on), but I hope you won't let a little Google search stand between you and any of these fine books! I started reading Kazim Ali's essays on the train and have hardly been able to put the book down. A quote from Fasting for Ramadan: "When you see someone who is fasting, you think you are seeing someone who is refraining, restraining, but really you are seeing a whole whirlwind of both mental and physical activity." This sounds counterintuitive, but by time you arrive at it, by way of an essay about what the physical experience of fasting is like, it makes perfect sense. Ali talks about the physical and spiritual sides of this practice as an intertwined whole and gives you a window in on the rituals and logistics of Ramadan in lyrical language. It's not available yet, but you can pre-order it now for its April release . . .