Well Said, Dislocate Editor

Self returned from AWP Chicago with a new crick — this time in her left elbow. What was the cause? Was it lugging all those books back and forth from the Hilton to the Palmer House?

She’s still reading blogs about the AWP experience. Here are some musings from Dislocate (which began with observations on a writer’s essential “alone-ness” : “while we stress the necessity for our own writing of cultivating curiosity about the world beyond ourselves, we write — physically, literally — alone”) :

Sometimes this aloneness, especially for those writers who don’t have the luxury of teaching in or attending M.F.A. programs, or working in publishing, or whose work is as of yet unpublished, can transform into a poisonous loneliness. We rely on our imaginations to ply our trade, but those imaginations—exhausted by craft—can fall short of providing us with a sense of community and kinship. In the echo chamber of our head, our work—not just the writing itself, but the work of writing—starts to ping back and forth, sending out a resonance that sounds eerily like why bother or who is this for, anyway? We lose faith.

So going to A.W.P. felt a little bit like going to worship. There was something of the prayer service in the vast gilded halls full of people nodding in unison as Stuart Dybek articulated his theory of urban animism, or as Antonya Nelson talked about the power of omniscience. The Hilton, a stately old-time affair on Michigan Avenue is the Hilton—the first hotel in the family’s empire. I found myself feeling that its crystal chandeliers, plush muffling carpets, elaborate murals, sweeping staircases and grand foyers served as a sort of tangible imprimatur of the worthiness of our enterprise—as if the lovely, and yes, old-fashioned, setting not so much elevated the conference or what it stood for, but provided a reflection of it that we so often are unable to see.

Although self had to spend her own money (about $600) and she isn’t truly attached to any institution (since she only teaches part-time), it’s emerging now that it was a good idea she went.

Thank you, Luisa, for dreaming up the panel that pulled self to Chicago, after three (rather lonely) years spent writing in her little house in Redwood City.

She never knew that the Chicago Hilton was the Hilton: the first, the ne plus ultra.

She didn’t go to any after-parties, not even to the one of Post Road (though she was very glad to have met Ricco Villanueva Siasoco), which co-hosted with Bomb. Two very cool magazines, and she missed it (feeling rather overwhelmed).

She even missed Stuart Dybek and Antonya Nelson.

Self’s AWP was a very quiet, very private affair. But she still learned a lot. For instance, about “little” magazines (with big voices) like Dislocate!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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