Fifteen Ways of Looking at a Conference


I went running beforehand, just at dawn,

heard a varied thrush, down from the mountains.

And I could’ve gone home happy then.



I wore my most fabulous garment, a coat,

even when I was indoors. Because every writer

needs a security blanket. And every other writer

needs a companion dog. But I get that.

It is hard to be with twelve thousand people

who all want the two tablespoons of fame

available in our measly genre. Very hard.



I have never heard of anybody. Or met anybody. Or read anybody.

I have never done anything with trochees.

Is it too late? I write down quotes.



If you’re an editor, use a green pencil.

A poet must be a good reporter, but he must be something more.

Poetry can add to the stock of available reality.

Want to write better? Be more.

If it doesn’t sound right it’s no fucking good.

Bears aren’t afraid of being asleep.

The more you try to be original, the less original you’ll be.



You’re welcome.

I just saved you

$230 and that’s

if you signed up before Halloween.



Know how when you leave an art museum

everything looks like art, even stop signs?

Everything sounds like poetry by around 2 p.m.



I hate being all fan-ny, but there is no alternative.

There is the famous poet who wrote me a blurb.

I say thank you, even though I did so at the last gathering.

And then what to say? Umm. Thanks again?



I am talking to a younger writer

and come up with a quote:

You can’t not write.

I never wanted a tattoo before this.



That awkward moment at the cocktail party when

your friend introduces you to someone and says

“Hey, Ben’s a poet. Ben, this is Tina. Tina’s a poet.”

Kind introducer is pleased somehow. She forgets:

Poets have nothing to say to poets. Not always,

but mostly.



You are my tribe. But we do not dress the same.

I forgot to get a piercing for this. And dye my hair neon.

And wear a long gingham prairie dress. Or painted shoes.

The black coat serves me well.



The things you hear.

“We are rebuilding

the emotional infrastructure

of the world.”  




We share ego insecurity desire for immortality rejections very long scarves

comfort that fame can come posthumously knowledge that we usually feel better

after we write a curious fascination with the truth of long lists disdain for commas



We develop prowess in submission.

We apply to a retreat,

something you do after you lose.



We observe each other up and down

the convention center’s cascading escalators,

six floors of them! And smile and wonder

and star in our own author interviews  

in our minds, and hope for the best.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Oh, I love this so much. So glad you stopped by the Deb Ball and linked to this, Tina. It’s really wonderful.


  2. But wait! What about that choice one at the non-AWP cocktail party: “I heard that poetry is trendy now because we’re all so busy and poetry is shorter and quicker than other literary forms.”


  3. yeah I wasn’t convinced about that point of view either! fewer words =/ (not equals) quicker reading!!


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