This year was my first at the AWP Conference, and I have to admit, I attended mostly because it was held in Denver and I would only have to commute an hour there and back each day. Not bad, considering I wouldn't have to pay for a hotel room and flight like many of the other writers.

There were some great bits about the conference. The best part? I got to catch up with lots of writing buddies I don't often get to see. Lish McBride, author of the forthcoming YA novel Hold Me Closer Necromancer, is a good friend of mine from my time at Seattle University, and she was helping out with the University of New Orleans booth at the book fair (she got her MFA from UNO). She introduced me to some really sweet writers, sweet in personality and talent. I liked that.

Second best? The Lost Horse Press table sold out of its copies of New Poets / Short Books, which means my poetry (along with Jesse's and Karen's) is out in readerspace being viewed! Second Best Part, Part A: I sold out of the copies I brought with me as well. Yay! I wish I'd brought more, seeing how I still have eighty copies hanging out in my dining room right now.

Third best? I budgeted myself and only bought three new books, all of which were pretty affordable. I got a copy of Gregory Orr's Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved, a book of critical analyses of Imagist poems, and a book called Lovely, Raspberry by Aaron Belz--a funny poet who doesn't mind discussing the finer points of good scotch in the middle of a business transaction. Ooh! I also got the book The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (but I bought that at a bookstore, so I don't count that as an AWP indulgence). It's great so far, more because of the young female protagonist and less because it's a goofy mystery novel, and I can't wait to buy the sequel.

Fourth Best Part: the Robert Hass reading was terrific. What a natural presence, a comfortable reader! I felt like I was curled up at a storytime session even though I was rows back in an enormous ballroom. His book Time and Materials really captures a strangely unique perspective on the length and depth of one's life. His awesome sense of humor helps too.

Much goodness ensued at the conference, let it be known. There was too much talent to take it all in within the week. I'll quickly say, however, that much frustration occurred as well, in that I saw and overheard many writers (not all!) putting each other down, struggling for attention, presenting lectures that lacked depth or insightful calls to action, and promoting the unfortunate stereotype most writers (poets in particular) have been cursed with. I'm going to suggest to the board of directors a new panel idea: The Mindful Writer: How Compassionate People Can Promote Themselves Successfully. Honestly, we--as writers--seem to take little account of others unless they are evoking our pity or inspiring a story.

During a panel discussion that branched into Question/Answer format (which inspired fewer questions than testimonials) I remembered that I was still supposed to keep up with my Napowrimo pledge, and what better time to jot down ideas than in a room full of writers? I assumed, a little selfishly I know, that I wouldn't miss much. I mentally flipped back to the last TV show I'd watched, which happened to be a documentary on avocados. (Yes, really.) And I got the beginnings of a poem jotted down. Thanks for reading!


tells us that this fruit was, to the Aztecs, a strange

testicle of the earth, bulbous seed weighing down

flesh that ripened only when the human hand

loosened it from its branch; that Cortez, ironically,

had difficult pronouncing its name but loved to eat it

sliced in thick chunks or spread over roast dog.

He thought it might be rich enough to neutralize poison

and although his men soon realized it was not

they discovered it tasted wonderful too with apples

or with bowls of cold water, or with nothing at all.

A Puritan once accused the avocado of being God’s

unborn son, the wrinkled, ugly egg that even angels

pray will never hatch on account of its unsightliness;

thus, avocados must be peeled with great care.

Do not be deceived by statistics, which indicate

that less than half of all American households

consume avocados. The fruit is quietly popular

with scientists, teachers, and parents, who have

admitted to showing children how to insert toothpicks

into the seed like spokes of light around a sun,

balance the seed over a glass of water, half submerged,

nurturing the growth of a new tree and all its implications,

a fatty fruit, its possible relationship with God,

the name that fails to fall over the lips of explorers.



Lishism said…
If nothing else, this poem alone makes AWP worth it. It was so great to spend time with you and check out new writers. Yay!
dot said…
Bahahah, Hold Me Closer Necromancer. That is brilliant. Please tell me it'll be slightly inappropriate to buy for my eleven-year-old brother-in-law. He needs roughing up a bit.
Hooray! So glad you got to go hang out with (mostly cool) writer types. My order form is on it's way so you can kick your copy-count down to a mere 79. Miss you!
k.d. jospe said…
love your avocado poem, and it sounds like a great time at AWP -- how lucky to live close to Denver!
Monet said…
As someone who loves avocados...I enjoyed reading your poem. The anecdotes you choose to include are unique and give the poem a dose of quirkiness. And then of course, your prose is elegant as always. Elegance + quirkiness = brilliance
Anonymous said…
Thanks for this insightful report. "Me & Coyote" is outstanding, by the way. I'm happy to hear it sold out at the LHP table. Fresh, striking, totally you--these poems made my day over several days of reading them.

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