AWP

 with Tobi Harper, Molly Frances Wingland, Maureen Alsop, Alexis Vergalla, Lauren K Alleyne, Katie Manning and Cindy Rinne.
with Tobi Harper, Molly Frances Wingland, Maureen Alsop, Alexis Vergalla, Lauren K Alleyne, Katie Manning and Cindy Rinne.

AWP. AWP. What to say about AWP? It leaves us all spinning. If you haven’t left a piece of you sanity in the assigned city, you haven’t really been to AWP. This year I left crazy umbrellas wherever I could. In retrospect, I wished I had brought more umbrellas, more poetry. It is always an issue of more with AWP. 30 umbrellas are swallowed quickly by 10,000 writers. Being swallowed is a good way to describe AWP.

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This year I convinced a few of my writing students (the very talented Trish Donahueto and Andrea Thamm) to attend. They fought with themselves over time and money spent—it’s just a conference, they objected when I described the whirl of energy, lack of sleep, and the effect that three miles of books has on a word lover. Eventually they resigned to go (maybe just to shush me up for a moment). I was delighted when we eventually crossed paths. They could no longer blink. You tried to tell us, they said. Yes, I can try but there is no way to describe what it is about this event that allows for—I am going to say it—transformation.

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The transformation is never expected; in fact the best way to attend AWP is with zero expectations. It is never the same; what you hate one year you may love the next. Some people walk away with the full recognition that life is larger than words. Some fade deeper into the folds of imagination. All is good, even if it feels like hell.

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In our own AWP troupe there was a trip to the E.R. due to exhaustion. I heard feet where broken on the giant escaladers and I witnessed several first time attendees break into spontaneous tears. Had I not been saved by Jason Cook and Maggie Hess (with their magical cup of coffee and hot crêpes) I may have entirely lost my mind in Seattle. I wish I was joking. No. This is no joke. This is AWP. But it’s not. Not really. I mean, it’s just a conference. Right?

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Okay, it’s a conference. But I don’t know of any other conference where a person’s ethics, desires, and ideas (/ bodies) are pushed to a breaking point. If you’re lucky, this four day conference strips you to your most primal self. It gives you permission to be what you want—a writer. Even more profound, it reveals who you are—the reason you write. Such epiphanies are not easy to weather.

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I find it extremely important to keep your friends close when traveling in the storms of desire. I love my Red Hen Press / LAR Family. I love the Pie Bar and karaoke nights; I love feeling like a posse of book slingers. I am extremely proud of Kate Gale, whose new book The Goldilocks Zone launched at this year’s AWP.

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I was also proud of my URC family. My UCR sister Alexis Vergalla organized a reading on a glass bottom boat that included a city race. (What?) Yes. So good. photo 3-2In an ideal world, we would all return home with three solid days to dream away the after-blur of being with 10,000+ people. It isn’t the size of the event, nor the scope, it is the whirling descent of having to face off with what and who we are.

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There is more to be said, shared, posted about all of this. Yes. I am hopeful that those of you who received umbrellas will send me photos of where the words traveled. I would love to mail umbrellas to those who wanted the extra shelter but couldn’t find it.

There is more out there…so much more. I am deeply grateful for this–this something more. Love, gratitude, and most importantly poetry to all.

n.d.

The Living Poetry Project: Part 17

While in Berkley, I had many interesting conversation with my friend Johnny. (Johnny is always easy to talk too. Despite the time and distance between us, we are able to pick-up where we left off. Such friends are gifts.)

One of many interesting things Johnny told me was that chapbooks  fly from the shelves at the distribution center where he works, while the full length collections have a tendency to slowly (slowly) meander their way to readers. It would make sense that lovers of compression would buy compressed books. (There is a lot more to be said on this topic, but pleasure before business–lets get to the poems.)

Alexis Vergalla chapbook, Letter Through Glass, is a beautiful example of a “little book” or rather big ideas bound tightly together by metaphor. Inquires into identity, loss, and an existential crisis all crafted to fit in a top-hat. Ah, poetry is magic and its rabbits are born ready to hump into more rabbits of scurry.

To share Vergalla’s poetry, I burned her poem “Before the Fires” into carving wood and left them on the hearth of a resteraunt. Hopefully these words will light their way to readers. Hopefully readers will follow the poem’s radiance.

Bees’ Knees Book Club March / April

For the Love of Craft

The Bees’ Knees will pick a new book about the craft or love of poetry for discussion every three months. Please join in on the discussion and reading fun. Our book will be:

Richer Entanglements by Gregory Orr

Side Note: This might be the best book on craft I have ever read.

You can order your copy here: Amazon

The Mainstream Book Club

The Bees’ Knees will pick a new book from an established writer for discussion every three months. Please join in on the discussion and reading fun. Our book will be:

The Raindrop’s Gospel by Maurya Simon

You can order the book here: Amazon

The Undercurrent Book Club

The Bees’ Knees will pick a new title from an up-and-coming writer for discussion every three months. Please join our discussion and reading fun. Our book will be:

Letters Through Glass by Alexis Vergalls

You can order the title here: Amazon

Hybrid Essay by Alexis Vergalla

The Ever Amazing Anne Carson and my Love Affair (or, How I Travel by Bus)

One afternoon my phone vibrates in my pocket; it is Jacob, recent transplant to New York City. “I know where anne carson works out. (and sweats.)”  He calls me later as I stand on the corner of Pike and 3rd Avenue.  The rain pours around me, buses steam and splash, and Jacob tells me Carson came to a reading tonight to preview her new play.  I miss most of the details to the storm.  As my heels finally click and slide down the bus aisle I say “I will call you back, I want to know more,” when what I mean is, I wish I had seen it. Her. The play. The dark bar, the bulbous wine glasses and slanted golden beer.

I will be honest; I don’t understand Anne Carson.  Her work is full of vacant spaces, of references that pass over my head.  And still, to remain honest, I love Anne Carson.  She keeps me at arms length. She does not let me in.  I fight and I crawl between words and I look up and she is one step further away. (Is this is what I love: the one who lures and walks away?) It hurts me to know this, she writes. What a word of possibility, this.

So, of course, I want to write about her. But I think I am writing a map of my own intimacies.  I think I will lose Anne. [How text can condense time- I have written, but you have yet to read. So it has unfolded for me but you have yet to begin uncreasing.] I love her, but I cannot fathom her.  Of course this isn’t about her at all.

How is it that one can love without comprehension? [On the bus, the women screech like birds. There are other women wrapped in babushkas like cabbages. It is not cold, but to look at them you could not know this. They are potatoes. They are earth things. In the sky, gulls screech.] I am in love with this city.  I fall in love with it every morning, and then I begin the slow process of falling-out-of-love. Only to begin again. Someone asks, so, how are you liking Seattle?  If only I could explain.

[Years ago, I was on a train home and light struck the sludge beside the tracks.  Slumped piers. The windows were scratched Plexiglas-our fingers tapping look look look. I tap the bus window and there is no one to remember this. But me. I am here too. Was I in love then?  There was less a sense of shifting, I had yet to spend days beneath an oppressively blue sky.  How un-unsafe I felt.  I cannot remember if I was in love, or falling out, but I don’t remember feeling rootless.]

I am told my writing is sad, but heartfelt. I think of the beating pulpy thing, reaching arteries into a text, and I think this is okay.  She writes Our empty clothesline cuts the sloping night and of course there is sadness, but isn’t there beauty as well?  Isn’t that more important?  The clothesline divides; it draws up between the house (living) and the gate (latched).  Boundaries are important.  If a boundary is defined by where edges touch, by the join/divide, then love is approaching and holding the difference between You and Me. And moving one step closer.  And another.  I am told You don’t put your foot down very often. If at all.  To put my foot down would be to pin down the shifting edge, a bare foot on the blade-like division. [How it feels, like cutting lemons. Or skin.]  I balance on the kitchen stool and say, “No, that isn’t true.” See, I am putting my foot down, painfully. You exist (at the stove) and I exist (on the stool) and we float words into the air.

[The bus passes a statuary, and someone has balanced a small ferret of stone on the head of a medium sized lion. The kind that guards doors and gateways. A shape with a lion body, but the head of a lion.  The lion does not look up (it can’t) and the bus passes by it again and again. The auction house beside the statuary is empty and for rent. Sometimes the sky is snow-silver, and three nights ago the moon was a bare hook ringed in clouds. A teeth mark on the flesh of night.]

I always thought I was leaving, always moving forward and away from love, but I am beginning to suspect I had the perspective wrong: I am attempting to arrive. (Anne, help me arrive. But you slip away, you evade my gaze.)  A box arrives at my doorstep, an arrival of things I have been without.  Anne has arrived.  My approximation of Anne- her text.

I open her book. I have been like one asleep. Sleep caught.

[A girl with a fur-lined hood throws her head back. I can see her laughter.

[The women cry like birds. The women trundle like earth.

[What woman am I?

I dream I am lines of snow, driving into glass. I dream I am zipping a shirt over my bared breasts as the door opens and I turn to the rectangular patch of light.  I dream I am laughing and there is a brass window, just out of reach, and open slightly.  Like your mouth, bare hint of smile. Of teeth.

The lake water wakes me. Gasping.  Jacob was there, and he is in New York now, watching Anne’s newest play.  I am growing accustomed to rain.

[I mistake the word Breakfast for Keats, as if the all-night diner holds a memorable past. The formica tables and their spilled sugar.

There are bulbs emerging, a false spring.  A skiff cuts across water and the buoy bobs, nonchalant.  If I were to bring in love, it would be a gaping hole. The vacant space I circle, the interior of a prism, the mechanism to striate light.  The mountains radiate all day and I have a wheel to show me night’s constellations, but for a more southern latitude.  Some nights I laugh until it my ribs hurt, some nights I dance until my body is drenched.  Some nights I simply sleep and wake and begin again.

Arrival:

Field of swans. Same color as snow geese. The migratory patterns diverging but here (there) is a field—green white and smelling of bird shit.  So what of the changing context?

It’s all a matter of perspective.

I am condensing histories. His stories. You and you and you and you.  Really, it is an attempt to return to myself and I open Anne’s page to And suddenly a vacancy, a silence,//is somewhere inside the machine./Veins pounding. We watched snow geese | we rode trains | we drove down the mountain as night shuttered herself against the car. You ground your teeth | you snored lightly | I slept on the couch until you carried me back. You bent my arm around my back | you bit my shoulder | you kissed my eyelids | you drew first blood. I—what did I do?

[I have lost the thread of Anne. My affair. I have wandered off as I always do.]

Anne arrives in boxes, but she only approximates arrival.  I love and fallout.  I love and fallout. Me, as ever, gone.

*Italic text from Anne Carson’s Decreation.

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Alexis Vergalla is often distracted by shiny objects and stories about ether.  She  is the   author of two chapbooks, Letters Through Glass (2009, Finishing Line Press) and Experiments in Light and Ether (forthcoming, Dancing Girl Press).  Her work has appeared in Diode, Anemone Sidecar and elimae, among others.  She formly edited CRATE and The Manuscript and her blog, www.alexisv.wordpress.com, is updated somewhat frequently.  If you ask her about John Tyndall or Sir Oliver Lodge she will talk to you for hours.

To order a copy of “Letters Through Glass” please visit:

http://www.openpoetrybooks.com/order.html
http://www.pilotbooksseattle.com/wordpress/
http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Through-Glass-Alexis-Vergalla/dp/1599243873/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264739980&sr=8-1