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March 10, 2012 / thomcaraway

Seven Ways of Looking at AWP

Blaine Eldredge

IV.

AWP has vindicated my use of superlatives. And it has made the abstract world of language concrete. It was, in short, fantastic. Reflecting on the experience,  I was impressed by the ways that  AWP made the realm of English post-graduation seem tangible. Seem possible. Here are writers working for the niche of literature in the world, and everywhere there seemed to be a “go and try” mentality. In one conversation with a chapbook publisher, our man responded to our questions: “Just go for it, man.”

The world of writing is a veritable Wild West. In one session, I listened as cyborg-meliorists waxed poetic on the possibilities of video-poetry. Ten minutes later I was in a room with DIY artists advocating handmade works of art, preferably produced in the living room, as an antidote for an increasingly de-physicalized, and therefore de-humanized, world. Because I am not a graphic designer, and because I hold a strong aversion to what was termed “the digital morass,” I was especially encouraged by those writers working for personal human connections and local exchanges of literature. What a remarkable idea, that a small community can have a publisher! This is tremendous! We can fight for the age of local bards again, close communities, and meaningful exchanges of local art.

The bookfair. Window-shopping in stained-glass hipster kaleidoscope, and as exciting as that sounds. I was especially excited by the small journals, those journals that did not disdain the work of young writers if it was of literary merit. I think here of Cave Wall, of Map

An observation: in sixteen hours in a big city, I begin a transformation into a nihilist. This is a very important piece of self-understanding to have. This is not to say that I am entirely averse to cities. No, the falafel is too good for that. But so many people, such a constructed world cannot help but make the bustling actions of its inhabitants seem a game everyone has agreed not to acknowledge as such, and I long for the dank smell of aspen leaves transforming into soil.

David James Duncan. Kevin Goodan. Norman Maclean. Elzéard Bouffier. And now Jessie Van Eerden. The journal 6×6. Writers can live in the wild and still affect great change.

And now, some instruction for panhandlers.

1. Assume the total depravity of man.

2. Maintain the straps on your luggage.

3. Stop for lunch.

4. Appear intentional.

5. Appear shiftless.

6. Have no uncles.

7. Have a real uncle, and have him with you.

8. Take a taxi.

9. Speak only a language foreign to the place you are in.

10. Have a beard and run in zigzags.

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