Wednesday, February 2, 2011

AWP begins today - Visit Blog This Rock all this week for haiku and other updates!

The mass gathering of creative writers known as AWP (8,000 writers in one hotel, all competing to see who has the coolest glasses) converges on DC beginning today. Some folks are trapped by weather and have had to delay their arrival or are waiting to see if they'll get here at all. We are praying to the weather and travel gods to deliver unto our city all stranded writers!

Split This Rock will have a major presence at the conference this year. You can check out our schedule here. The big change is that Split This Rock is a Literary Partner of the conference, bringing high-profile programming in exchange for organizational visibility. We are grateful to AWP and especially this year's conference chair, Francisco Aragon, for giving us this opportunity.

A sign of the times, that AWP is embracing explicitly political organizations and programs? I think so. A quick glance through this year's program shows more panels and readings with social issue content than I've ever seen before. There are Split This Rock's two panels, The Dreams the Dreamers Dreamed: A Tribute to Langston Hughes and Undivided: Poet as Public Citizen, but there's a ton of others. A small sampling, all of these before 1:30 pm on Thursday:
  • Speak Peace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children's Paintings Exhibit
  • We(a)ve: Inter-Indigenous Sovereign Poetics
  • Writing Human Rights: A Reading by Writers of the Iranian Diaspora.
  • From the Home Front: Civilian Poets Writing on War
  • If I Can’t Dance You Can Keep Your Revolution: A Reading by Six Writers of Political Engagement
  • American Poets Respond to Major Global Trauma
I think that Split This Rock has played a role in helping to open up literary space for these kinds of discussions, so rare when I first started going to AWP in 2003. But the times have demanded, too, that writers engage deeply with the world: eight years of Bush and now the fall-out in every area of life - wars and occupations that stagger on with no end in sight, a gaping disparity in wealth (recently named the 8th Wonder of the World by The Onion), corporate America run amok, wreaking lives at every turn. Writers are responding - and none too soon. We'll need all our creativity to get us out of the mess we've created. We look to the Egyptians for inspiration.

Meanwhile, we head to the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel today to set up. We feel like poor relations at the banquet: Because Split This Rock is a Literary Partner this year, AWP kindly gave us a booth. But no one explained that a "booth" is really just a booth space and we'd have to rent the structure that goes inside the booth... So, visit us at #315 and see what creative decorating we come up with.

Other things to do at the booth this year:

  • Write a haiku post card to President Obama. We'll post our favorites here on the blog each evening.
  • Write a letter to the editors of the Washington Post Book World, urging more reviews of poetry. If you live out of town, pick up our campaign flyer to give you inspiration for writing to your hometown newspaper.
  • Meet fabulous Split This Rock poet-activists.
  • Sign up for the list serv, to receive Split This Rock's Poems of the Week and get updates on campaigns and the upcoming festival, set for March 22-25, 2012.
  • See photos from past festivals.
  • Eat chocolate!
  • Make fun of our DYI booth decorating skills...
Hope to see you there!

- Sarah Browning

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