H and I went to AWP last week. We're still recovering. I'm still recovering, hard. I'm not used to being around that many people, 14,000 attendees to be specific and my energy reserves were almost completely depleted. H came up with another interesting idea: there were certain people, no matter how we do our best to keep our emotional and physical distance, who pollute our energetic resources. Something to be looked at deeper with more consideration once we're fully recovered. Poor H had to go right back to school. I've been in half-assed self-care mode, making soup and editing work. I should go for a walk.
It was at times a cluster-fuck. A friend pointed out to me that tons of the people in attendance were in or graduates of writing programs. They were looking for jobs, or looking to make connections with people who could one day offer them jobs or publish them. That explained a lot. There was an atmosphere of hunger, though it was masked with an air of insouciance, a too-cool-to-care posture that dissolved whenever a well-known author or publisher appeared in the fray. There was leg-humping, a lot of it. Not literal leg-humping but emotional leg-humping, if that makes any sense. I witnessed it first-hand a few times and it made me anxious, I stood in emotional awkwardness, watching and cringing. Hero worship is no thing for me, I've met many of my heroes and I was often disappointed. Now my heroes are people I know and appreciate.
Since I have a job I love and am not too worried about details like WHO WILL EVER KNOW ME I was able to navigate the melee comfortably. I was there to see friends, and a few panels. I wasn't overly concerned with networking or connections, though those did come, organically,as they should. I spent time with people I love, bad-asses of the no-fucks-given school of life, chaos and laughter. I met and thrived around people of the same soul and mindset; mostly emotionally sharp and intelligent women of color. I met up with an old love for the first time since our heartbreak-up. It was calm, mellow and easy. We laughed at how we were still the same people, in older/wiser bodies, with newer, healthier loves.
I know myself well so each afternoon I'd leave the conference to return to our hotel for an hour or two of silence, meditation, hot hot baths and naps. Little self-care breaks I needed. My feet were covered in blisters. I wasn't used to walking everywhere, in boots. I had to keep reapplying special bandages to the tender spots, hoping they would harden into callouses. (hello metaphor, you asshole, way to show up and distract me. . . )
I stayed up late most nights, running around with girlfriends, ending up at small, private parties where writers whose work I worship on the page were hanging out, with holes in their socks. H and I were moving in slightly different circles but we kept checking in through the days and nights, meeting up briefly then moving independently on to events. We met up each night, spent time debriefing then slept heavy sleeps. I love him.
My AWP highs: VONA love: hanging with the loves and lights from VONA, especially spending time with Elmaz Abinader outside of VONA. The Dismantle Table. Hanging with Sharline and Patricia, my beautiful Pan Dulce sisters from VONA. Getting wild and laughing my ass off with Christine, then pausing to have deeper conversation before diving back into the hilarity/joy. The memorial (heart.wrenching.) reading for Kofi Awooner. The parties, the small lovely private parties. Showing up in a poem in David Mura's fucking brilliant new book, The Last Incantations. Meeting a few new people I hope become friends.
My AWP lows: Blisters. Blisters. Blisters. Watching the leg-humping. Wanting to save people from bad decisions I was watching them make. Having stayed so far (really, only ten minutes) from the conference.
Thanks to Chris for the awesome shirt I'm wearing in the picture above. And here are a few pics with my loves.