Reflections after AWP 2017

I'm recently back from my first experience attending the annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference, held this year in Washington, DC, and I'm still processing the experience. Some 12,000 - 14,000 people were in attendance, including writers of every genre and people from around the world.

Most of my time was spent at the table for the Naugatuck River Review (, a journal of narrative poetry founded by my friend Lori Desrosiers. I've recently taken on the role of associate editor for the NRR, so I went to DC to help promote the journal and support the on-site reading for our recent contest winners. I had a lot of fun interacting with the crowd and encouraging people to submit their work. I also spent a good deal of time working as an alumni ambassador for my MFA program ( and answering questions about the low-res life.

The highlight of highlights for me was an off-site reading held at the American Poetry Museum ( in the Brooklands neighborhood of DC, which I trekked to with a few members of my Lesley tribe. The reading featured Shauna M. Morgan reading from her chapbook Fear of Dogs and Other Animals, and Fred Joiner, Melanie Henderson, and Enzo Silon Surin, three of the four poets featured in the Next Verse Poets Mixtape, both of which were published by Central Square Press ( The reading was terrific, and I was moved to buy copies of both books, which are perfectly pocket sized and yet manage to contain worlds.

It was great to see Fred and to meet these other poets and to find out that Melanie and Enzo both graduated from Lesley. We were also graced with the presence of Joanne Gabbin, PhD, founder and director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center at JMU, who is a luminous human being.

Other highlights include Eileen Myles' reading on Saturday night (though I ducked out in the middle of Alice Notley and apparently missed a scorching reading by Sonia of the dangers of AWP is not being able to do everything...) and a Made in Michigan reading that featured my friend Cindy Hunter Morgan reading from her new collection Harborless, which literally plumbs the depths of the Great Lakes for shipwrecks.

There's so much I'm leaving out. Like the food (Korean brunch is a delightful thing) and the connections (I met the Dolly Parton of Poetry, Laura Minor, who lives up to the nickname, and the remarkable Kaveh Akbar) and the conversations about Phil Collins.

OH! I bought only a few books at the bookfair, but the latest Paisley Rekdal book, Imaginary Vessels is a real standout. The way her poems make use of sound and meaning is gorgeous, inventive, and funny. I can't stop reading it.

I'm sure there's so much I haven't even touched, but I'm still sorting out the experience.