AWP 2012. This year I came home from Chicago with a four-day hangover, a twitching eye, a ripped suitcase, and a nasty head cold. All of that was expected. Also expected was a new AWP theme. Every year, my friends and colleagues theme the conference based on the ridiculous occurrences and redundancies we encounter at the book fair and the hotel bar. Last year was the “How Many Times Can We Mistakenly Identify Joyce Carol Oates” and “What the Fuck is Up With All These Red Hats?” This year the theme was “Mustaches, Divorce, and Invisibility” Of course, there are buckets of jokes, elbow nudges, and inconspicuous glances that are attached to these themes, and while the mustaches and divorces were obvious, the idea of invisibility leant itself to all the nameless, faceless writers wandering around the hallways. It’s funny and it’s ironic because it’s all of us. I mean, as writers, our physical being is pretty much meaningless. It’s our words, our creations, that people care about, right? When my friend first showed me a picture she took of me waiting for a cab outside the Hilton Chicago, I was immediately intrigued. In the photo, I am turned away from the camera and if it wasn’t for my wild hair and pink shoes, it would be impossible for someone to recongize me. It’s interesting to examine myself this way. There are so many questions and possibilities happening in this one small image. Every time I look at it, I want to holler at myself to turn around. I want to know what I look like at that very moment, see my expression, my features, read myself. Chances are, had I been looking, my eyes would be closed, my grin goofy and crooked. I actually prefer myself in this pose. I appreciate possibility. I think as writers we all prefer ourselves this way. For most of us, our confidence is imbedded in our stories and poems, and when we are thrown in a conference center with 10,000 other writers, we mutate. We posture, we strut, we laugh too loud, but we exhaust quickly. We have a yearning for recognition, but a need for solitude. Invisibility is the state of not being seen, but it relies entirely on the observer. As writer’s, we wander around waiting for someone to see us, but most of the time they are looking the other way. This year was the launch of a poetry journal and press that I co-founded. It was a success. We met some fantastic editors and writers, we postured, we laughed very loudly, we drank (a lot). For a moment, people looked and it was nice, and then we came home and we climbed into our invisible nests and we slept. We slept, and we quietly sorted through our lives, and we began to write our tiny stories again because not much else is as clear and bright as that.
Um, this is beautiful.
Thanks for writing it.