Three poets (Dan Chelotti, Amanda Nadelberg, and Rosalie Moffett) were asked to describe their AWP experiences in journal form. The result is as follows.
Wednesday, February 26
Moffett 4:00 AM: I dream that I am in gridlock freeway traffic—like, mass evacuation/World War Z traffic. This is the road to AWP. I dream that I open this diary and write 10:30 AM: Shit Show.
Moffett 8:00 AM: I am, in real life, traveling towards AWP. I stand in a packed BART car and look at what others are doing on their phones. One woman is watching an eye shadow tutorial. It is stuck loading. She presses play over and over to no avail.
Moffett 11:00 AM: I board the plane, SFO to SEA. On the way to my seat, I see two writers that I know. My seat-mate is reading The New Yorker. Alaska airlines, usually so forthcoming with the free wine, offers none.
Nadelberg 11:55 AM: Arrived at Oakland International Airport. Spotted woman organizing AWP schedule (laptop) and two or three Stegner fellows. Didn’t say hi. Washed clementine from hands and called best friend who I will see tonight. Waved, fortunately, onto a no-fuss security lane and therefore able to keep my shoes on, my liquids in their bag (inside another bag, I double-bag for safety, I double-knot, too, if you’re wondering) and, if I’d brought a computer, that too. Why bring your computer though, be a person! My horoscope (Aquarius) says I shouldn’t speak in public and I’m on a panel tomorrow. Farnoosh gave me this notebook. On the cover with flowers, translated from the Thai, it says
I’M STILL LOVEING YOU.
The love I have for you still there as usual.
I’ll put my whole heart into it.
Nadelberg 12:20 PM: Thought about tweeting “this plane has surpassed the weight designated for poets” and then didn’t.
Moffett 1:30 PM: The light rail into Seattle is immaculate. (Later, at the conference, I’ll talk with a friend about this phenomenon as we descend the cascade of escalators. I’m used to St. Louis, so to me it’s just not a real train until someone has peed on it, she’ll say.A balding man will turn around and look up at us and ask, What are you talking about? Public shitting, Lizzie will say. He will have a weird glint in his eye and look incredibly pleased. When we reach the bottom of the escalator he’ll say, It’s been very interesting, ladies. Thank you.)
Moffett 1:45 PM: The light rail drops me off right next to the conference center, but I make my way to the 49 bus and take it to Capitol Hill.
Moffett 3:00 PM: I arrive at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. I wait in the lobby for Melinda. I’m staying at her apartment in a quite comfortably sized walk-in closet that fits a twin air mattress and a tiny bookshelf, and she has to “break from clinic,” to give me her building key. She is a hematology/oncology fellow at the “Hutch,” and works insane hours. She shows up, we hug, she hands me the key. We have a new leukemia patient coming in tonight, which is a hot mess, so I’ll probably be really late but if she can be stabilized and wait to start treatment until tomorrow morning, it’s possible that I might be able to see you tonight? She is a little breathless. Oh, no, do what you have to do, I say. I’m just going to get a tote bag and a little name tag.
Chelotti 3:18 PM: Sitting on the light rail on the way to the hotel. Two undergrads from the University of Miami are asking me questions about the conference.
Nadelberg 3:19 PM: On light rail to downtown (public transit victory) saw Dan Chelotti. Did not arm-wrestle him.
Chelotti 3:30 PM: My first glimpse of the Seattle skyline is foregrounded by a large MacDonald Meat sign.
Moffett 4:00 PM: Tote bag in hand, I am suddenly unsure what to do. I am absorbed by a group of poets, a couple of whom I know, and whisked off to drinks and then dinner.
Chelotti 4:34 PM: Successfully found my room. The chorus of texts begins. In the elevator I met Alaska’s fiddling poet, Ken Waldman.
Nadelberg 4:55 PM: Asked hotel for shower cap. Because I take showers.
Nadelberg 5:00 PM: Delighted to find a Cheesecake Factory next to the Convention Center. So many tote bags.
Chelotti 5:30 PM: Crepe in hand, I am walking outside the Sheraton and I see Bianca Stone and Ben Pease smiling and waving through the window of the hotel bar.
Chelotti 5:35 PM: I join them, and find that Natalie Eilbert, editor of The Atlas Review, which I love, is not only at the table, but she was at the table of an undergrad workshop I guest-taught at SUNY Purchase in 2006!
Chelotti 5:45 PM: Ben and I play a game watching people walk by—are they Seattle or AWP?
Chelotti 7:00 PM: I walk up Capitol Hill and meet up with the editors of Versal in a Mexican Restaurant. I promise Daniel Cecil that we will share many beers over the next few days. I don’t know if this will happen, but I love the hopeful promises of AWP.
Chelotti 7:45 PM: I walk to a bar where I meet up with Nikki Zielinski, who is one of my oldest poetry friends. We stand on the street for two hours catching up and hugging frantically.
Nadelberg 7:52 PM: Went to Elliott Bay Bookstore briefly after dinner (Oddfellows) with editor. Told her I’m afraid of being in establishments just before they close—one time when I was little I got stuck in the Arsenal Mall after hours with a friend and her mom. Saw Josh Edwards. His hat said “Alaska.”
Moffett 8:00 PM: I am in the back of a funeral-home-turned-bar where there is free pizza and somewhere, up front, a reading happening. I can’t hear. A friend hands me a card that says, I like you and your poems.
Nadelberg 8:20 PM: Embraced my handsome best friend at Hotel Max. He suggested I write “handsome” when describing him. Decided against the minibar snacks. $$.
Chelotti 9:45 PM: Nikki and I bump into Arisa White and her wife on a street corner. Arisa is holding a pizza box with a woman with enormous breasts printed on it. The woman with enormous breasts is holding a pizza box, too.
Nadelberg 9:56 PM: Met Janke at another hotel’s bar. Alan ordered a cheeseburger. All these people talking about the end of Academia; feel slightly better about being a receptionist.
Chelotti 10:15 PM: We walk to the Poetry Northwest party. We stand in the corner next to a plate of chicken bones. The talk is serious. Marriage. Divorce. Children. Chicken.
Chelotti 10:45 PM: I bump into Justin Boehning. We decide that poetry is people and hug. Yes. The drunken times have begun.
Chelotti 11:15 PM: We walk to a burger joint (100% BEEF!) and although I want to order one burger I somehow order two. This is ok.
Chelotti 11:45 PM: As I have been up since 3:30 a.m. EST, I decide to jump a cab. I am far enough away from home to be from Boston again.
Nadelberg 11:45 PM: Came home to hotel with B.F.—best friend, not boyfriend—and talk about our feelings during what I like to call “toothbrush time.” Received my first tote bag.
Thursday, February 28
Moffett 12:00: A fucking club where you have to follow the DJ on fucking Twitter and tweet your requests. My friend requests a bunch of Journey songs, gleefully aware that this in direct conflict with the atmosphere in the club. The DJ obliges. Everyone at the bar (no one is dancing) boos.
Chelotti 12:15 AM: Sifting through texts and social media, making a loose plan for tomorrow, I am trying my best to deny the beginnings of a sore throat. I forgot a toothbrush and use my index finger.
Chelotti 8:19 AM: My throat feels a bit better. I will seek out vitamin c and not drink until the McSweeney’s party tonight. I swear.
Chelotti 8:22 AM: My hotel has put a free USA Today outside my door. The headline: Governor Vetoes Anti-Gay Bill. 2014!
Chelotti 8:25 AM: In the hall I see Alaska’s fiddling poet, Ken Waldman. I do not detect a fiddle on his person.
Chelotti 8:30 AM: Retrieving free replacement toothbrush from the lobby, Chad Reynolds emerges from the elevator and we discuss finger toothbrushing tactics. He tells me that his friend’s plane got stuck in a ditch. Yes. A ditch.
Nadelberg 8:35 AM: Began day doing Joni Mitchell impressions with Alan thanks to Spotify and compact speakers.
Nadelberg 8:46 AM: Eggs with publisher, Chris Fischbach; mirth, minimal gossip. Chris thinks I’d make a wonderful country singer. Once I had a dream Yosemite Sam tried to drown all my toys.
Chelotti 8:50 AM: All espresso beverages include a double shot. We will be friends, Seattle.
Chelotti 8:54 AM: Walking to the conference center, many hugs are followed by: Hey, you are wearing a Red Sox hat. Yes. I am wearing a Red Sox hat.
Chelotti 9:15 AM: I am about to cross the bookfair threshold. Do I dare summon the words of the immortal Trench: Ready for ‘dem but ‘dem no ready for me.
Chelotti 9:25 AM: I visit with Dara Wier, who shows me a story she wrote on the plane here on her phone. It is amazing. She tells me that at some music museum there are letters that Jimi Hendrix wrote to his father that are beautiful. I say I will try and go. These beautiful declarations of plans that will never come to be—may we all lead another life made of these plans.
Moffett 10:00 AM: I walk through the bookfair feeling prickly and talking to nobody.
Nadelberg 10:00 AM: Entered bookfair. At least twelve hugs. Decided to return to hotel to draw a map of priorities/pitfalls/emergency exits and stopped for coffee; saw someone I know and tried to wave but he didn’t see me. (Hi, Steve.)
Moffett 10:20 AM: The OTHER room of the bookfair. I think about how most people look at the vast spread of tables and feel uplifted: Look at all the people who care about writing! Perhaps they’re right.
Moffett 10:21 AM: Perhaps not. It seems impossible that there is this much reading going on.
Nadelberg 11:03 AM: – 1:00 PM: Finished prepping for panel on “Difficult Poetry” by laying papers on the bed and writing notes while standing and looking out the window at all the people going in and out of the court house. Called Dobby Gibson. Called my mother.
Chelotti 11:17 AM: A lot of hugs and reunions and meetings in the past two hours. I look up and see a seagull fly over aisle 900. Time to go smoke, the augur says.
Moffett 12:00 PM: Lunch overlooking the Puget Sound. An unoccupied Ferris wheel turns listlessly.
Chelotti 1:03 PM: Eating pizza, Ken Waldman, Alaska’s fiddling poet, stops to say Hi. Still no fiddle.
Nadelberg 1:05 PM: Blew nose and thought if I keep blowing my nose I won’t have to shake hands with anyone.
Chelotti 1:45 PM: I start to walk back to the conference center, but think better of it and go back to the hotel to take a little nap.
Moffett 1:45 PM: I am late to the Copper Canyon press reading. I sit on the floor which is a cross between floral and giraffe print. I am there to see Marianne Boruch, a teacher of mine from Purdue. She is reading from her book Cadaver, Speak. She preambles about attending the cadaver lab with the medical students. I learn that the cadaver’s hands and feet are kept in wet tube socks to keep them moist. One moment: it is time for the hand to be dissected. The tube sock is removed. Sudden bright red fingernail polish in a white, sterile room. This instant of revelation turns for days in my head like a ruby in glass case.
Nadelberg 1:50 – 3:30 PM: Blur of carpet and nametags and new mantra: Don’t trip on carpet.
Chelotti 4:00 PM: So much for a little nap. Maybe that will help me avoid the flu.
Chelotti 4:30 PM: I sleepwalk to the bookfair. I don’t know where I am going or why I came back. So much of AWP is like this, pacing back and forth between intention and confusion. I walk to the New England College table and know Andrew Morgan will understand. He does.
Nadelberg 4:30 PM: Spoke on panel—fired Roman candles—with fellow Coffee House Press poets. Talked about Gertrude Stein, demotic language and Stephen Colbert, vis-à-vis the poetry inherent in his segment “The Word.”
Chelotti 5:07 PM: Walking up to meet Jesse Nathan, my editor and my roommate for the conference, I see that he is wearing an A’s hat. I pull my Sox cap from my bag, don it, and embrace him.
Chelotti 5:15 PM: I pace back to the hotel. In the lobby, Alaska’s fiddling poet, Ken Waldman, introduces himself to Jesse.
Chelotti 5:30 PM: I show Jesse all the books I couldn’t afford to buy. He brought a bag of gummy bears and we eat a lot of them and catch up. We walk down to get a bite.
Nadelberg 5:57 PM: Free beer in hotel lobby. Melissa who works there tells Alan I move “like a hummingbird.” Received very important voicemail from sister: her son has been retreating to the bathroom to make rainbow looming bracelets in secret. Not a euphemism.
Chelotti 6:00 PM: Back at the conference I josh around with a good group of my buddies—Pioneer Valley poets all. I find myself on the street smoking with Wendy Xu, Brian Foley, and Haley Thompson. Just like home.
Chelotti 6:28 PM: I am at Moe Bar sitting next to Amy Lawless listening to Jackie Clark and Joel Craig read. Amy and I have a standing joke that I am her mother. Like a good mother, I ask her if she’s had enough to eat.
Chelotti 6:44 PM: Dear person reading, this bar will never be quiet enough for you.
Nadelberg 7:00 PM: Took taxicab to Café Racer for Song Cave reading. Alan helped the driver navigate the city thanks to Waze which is an app for your phone. Wondered why cabbies these days don’t seem to know their ways around cities anymore. Imagined saying so what if I don’t wear Vans to no one in particular.
Chelotti 7:05 PM: I slip out and get incredibly confused as to the location of the McSweeney’s party. My phone keeps telling me I have arrived. But I have not. I ask someone and he points to the back of a dark parking lot. For Madmen Only.
Chelotti 7:10 PM: I offer my card to the bartender. The bartender says, I’ll take that at 9:00. I say, I’ll probably be leaving around then. He says, No, it is an open bar. Good god, make it a double Bulleit Rye.
Chelotti 7:45 PM: I am sitting with a bunch of McSweeney’s folks, and Heather Christle and Chris DeWeese come and join us! The doubles keep coming. Heather and I discuss arm wrestling for the sake of this AWP log. In the parallel universe where all plans are followed through—we do, and she wins.
Chelotti 8:30 PM: I am so drunk that when Danny Khalastchi leans over my shoulder and tells me that his book is going to be published by McSweeney’s I am capable of expressing all my excitement. We mutually adore each other for a full five minutes.
Nadelberg 9:00 PM: Heard poems by many folks, especially (deep in my soul) Aaron Kunin, Jane Gregory and Sara Nicholson. Learned that Aaron and I share a birthday.
Moffett 9:30 PM: I note that in all AWP and AWP-related social gatherings, the unabashed and constant use of the phone is accepted. It is understood that everyone is trying to meet up with everyone, and that this is a logistical nightmare.
Nadelberg 9:32 PM: Stood by a broken jukebox talking openly with a stranger; wonder if this is flirting, I can never tell. Thought about making a joke about a Jew Box. Abstained from tater tots. Listened to people talk about the end of the world. Wondered if I’d ever become Mormon just because my boss was.
Chelotti 9:34 PM: I attempt to tweet a pun concerning rye whiskey and The Catcher and the Rye @sethlandman, who is not here this year. No one, not even I, will understand this tweet.
Moffett 9:47 PM: At Linda’s Tavern—a Kurt Cobain favorite—I’m afraid that it seems as if I have name-dropped Eavan Boland and Louise Glück in order to gain some absurd kind of street cred—but it’s just that I’ve forgotten that I’m in an environment where anyone would know the names of poets, where everyone has the same gods, so to speak.
Moffett 9:50 PM: I bring up a conversation that arose at a lunch I attended some days earlier between Louise and Eavan on the issue of whether or not to identify oneself as a poet. Louise was against it, saying, among other things, That is for history to decide—calling yourself a poet is like calling yourself a prophet. Eavan was adamantly for it. She had a number of points on this front, but most persuasive was this: There is a METAPHYSICAL CHANGE that takes place when you call yourself a poet! Everyone—more have joined us—agrees with Eavan. Basically, I think, on the premise that If you write poems, why not? I am still against it, but I don’t say this. It’s not that I particularly want to identify as anything else, or that I feel that the poet is a prophet, or even because I’m tired of people’s Oh-my-isn’t-THAT-so-nice reactions. I’m worried the metaphysical shift will crush my poems.
Chelotti 10:15 PM: A bunch of us jump in a cab and head to the Birds LLC reading. I hear Dara read the story that I read on her phone yesterday when I walk in. Dominic Luxford hands me more whiskey. This is one way to beat a cold. Thank you, Dominic.
Moffett 10:30 PM: There is a net of relationship drama that I only vaguely understand which means I and my friend must leave Linda’a and go to a bar called The Unicorn where we meet some of his friends. One turns to me and says, Do you have your book published? I have one—I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. It’s called Falling Up.” He barely finishes before doubling over laughing. I should say that I found this comment hilarious and not at all shitty.
Moffett 11:00 PM: I am at the Sheraton Hotel Bar, having been told that there is, every night at the AWP hotel bar, a meeting of the secret society of former Wallace Stegner Fellows of which I am now a member and can thus partake in. Perhaps it is because I hate looking at author photos and try to avoid them and mostly don’t know who anyone is, but I fail to discern a Stegner cult from the general drunken crowd. I don’t doubt that it exists, however.
Chelotti 11:45 PM: The DJ is not good, but we are trying valiantly. I show off my moves as the Valley poets egg me on.
Friday, March 1
Chelotti 12:15 AM: Complaining about the DJ on the street with Brian Foley, Kate Lebo, and Jesse, Kate decides to take matters into her own hands. We dance and grimace and sing Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” on the sidewalk.
Nadelberg 12:20 AM: Our cabbie for the way home—name’s Michael, Alan has his deets—and I talk about my wallet, which I’ve had since 1996. Velcro features. Michael plays a song by The Fratellis, a band he drove earlier. Alan and Michael bond over Waze. Michael says, It’s awazing. I make a triptych of jokes and Michael says that I’m fun. In the elevator Alan tells me that was flirting.
Chelotti 12:30 AM: Sampson Starkweather is very angry that the DJ will not play “El Scorcho.”
Chelotti 1:45 AM: Why am I still here? Where is Ken Waldman, Alaska’s fiddling poet? I hope he is ok.
Chelotti 2:15 AM: I end up walking with Amy Lawless in the direction of my hotel. We say goodnight, and walk the empty streets back to my place, using parking meters as walking sticks, as the song says.
Chelotti 7:30 AM: I wake up, still drunk, and my throat feels like I tried and failed to swallow a tattered baseball.
Nadelberg 8:00 AM: Woke with the spirit of Zeus in me. Alan reminds me that the previous night I asked if Snapchat is only for genitals.
Chelotti 8:25 AM: After a shower, I walk to the conference center and leave an article about the new collision rule in baseball under the NEC table for Andrew Morgan.
Chelotti 8:45 AM: It is only Friday.
Chelotti 9:00 AM: I meet up with Andrew and go get some breakfast with him. After breakfast, I walk my chills back to the hotel and crawl back into bed.
Nadelberg 9:50 AM: Procured Russian treats from Piroshky Piroshky. Tried to stop Alan from noticing a bookstore in Pike Place (he takes forever) but failed but by chance it was closed.
Nadelberg 11:30 AM: Tallied two showers I forgot to mark down the days before. Realized this log is also a tally.
Nadelberg 11:40 AM: Embraced Cris Mattison, keeper of the world’s most infectious laugh. Discussed the trombone, which his son plays and I did until my teacher realized I couldn’t reach 5th and 6th positions.
Moffett 12:30 PM: I am late, again, to a panel on poetry and philosophy and so squeeze into the packed room where someone seems to be giving a lecture on “absence as presence,” and oblivion. This, given the physically sardine-ish context of the room, creates for me a strange cognitive dissonance.
Moffett 1:00 PM: Lunch at a burger place. The Tin House staff is there. There is a moment of small talk where no one says, Man, when you were an intern, you used to make copies and change the toner so well. Thanks for that! This might be because when I was an intern, I wasn’t very good at making copies and I had no idea whatsoever how to change the toner.
Nadelberg 1:00 PM: Michelle Taransky tried on my tortoise shell ring and said my shirt is soft. I go outside for an emotional cigarette with Emily Pettit, which means I keep her company. Hey, Mom.
Nadelberg 1:30 PM: Sat in on panel about small-staffed nonprofits which forecasts that phone calls are coming back. Sometimes it’s just more efficient. Try it.
Chelotti 2:30 PM: After spending all morning and afternoon sleeping and feeling terrible watching hotel TV, I wake up and eat some gummy bears, and get ready to walk back to the conference. Reading in a little while.
Nadelberg 2:30 PM: Ran home for tiny siesta. When I put my sneaks back on, one was tighter than the other but I tried to be Zen about it.
Chelotti 2:50 PM: I bump into Timothy Donnelly and I tell him I will try and make his reading with Dorothea Lasky tonight, if I feel up to it.
Moffett 3:00 PM: In a room that is huge in a way that calls to mind refuge for survivors of natural disasters, people rudely get up and leave when they hear that W.S. Merwin will not be there.
Nadelberg 3:10 PM: Did not fall on escalator.
Chelotti 3:30 PM: Sitting in a deli having a sandwich and gathering myself before the reading, I see an AWPer drop a cigarette and a homeless man come and pick it up. I tried to smoke this morning. I couldn’t. I should give this man my pack. I don’t.
Nadelberg 3:55 PM: Overheard woman saying, I guess I should go to this panel.
Chelotti 4:00 PM: About to read. The gathering crowd. The darling familiar faces within it.
Moffett 4:00 PM: I want to take a nap but instead I meet my parents and my brother in a park. My brother lives in Boston, but is coincidentally in Seattle for a job interview. My parents live in Eastern Washington, but are in Seattle because they heard two of their kids would be in the same place at the same time.
Chelotti 5:17 PM: After the reading, Jade Sylvan comes up and asks me if it is possible to write an ecstatic lyrical poem without anal penetration. Of course not, I exclaim! We talk about Maldoror and about Rimbaud’s eschatological poems. The conversation really cuts through the shit—hur hur hur.
Chelotti 6:30 PM: Out to dinner with the McSweeney’s Poetry Series crew. A great toast followed by escargot, thank the heavens. I feel so sick. Zubair Ahmed makes me feel so much better when he tells me, after I ask him what he is up to these days, that he is searching for love. I immediately toast that. Zubair and Victoria Chang are talking about the Meyers-Briggs instrument. I go to the bathroom and lock myself in and lean against the sink, willing myself to summon what energy is left in me. I really feel awful. I am an IFNP with the flu.
Nadelberg 7:00 PM: Went to dinner at Radiator Whiskey; sat next to the very charming Karen Tei Yamashita. Shared tater tots. Heard Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” and felt very alive.
Chelotti 7:45 PM: I’ve walked back to my hotel and have decided to spend my Friday night of AWP in bed. Imagine that! Reading in bed! At AWP!
Nadelberg 10:05 PM: Arrived at reading in a co-op mansion after a nice walk with Alan during which we obtained snacks. Stood in endless line for the bathroom with human nunchuck Ally Harris, whom I adore. Ate someone’s chips.
Chelotti 10:15 PM: Andrew Morgan stops by to listen to me hack. Ken Waldman is in the lobby. I attempt a glass of whiskey. Although I feel terrible, it is a wonderful thing to spend real time with my best friend.
Moffett 11:00 PM: I go to bed in my little closet. I am exhausted. But also, having spent the evening with my family far from the conference and turning in at a relatively early hour, I sense that I am missing out on something—a Friday-night feeling I haven’t had since college. The conference hotel must be something like the dorms, I think.
Saturday, March 2
Chelotti 7:00 AM: I wake up feeling no better. Was asleep before midnight last night. I Skype with my daughter in the bathroom so as to not wake up Jesse. Selma hugs my ex-wife’s computer and tells me she loves me. I thought nothing could make me feel better. I was wrong.
Chelotti 7:56 AM: I walked down to Pike Place to stare at the Sound—for some reason Calvino’s Invisible Cities is heavy on my mind. Joe Scapellato texts to ask me to breakfast and he joins me. We sit staring at the water eating breakfast sandwiches. I love this paisan.
Moffett 9:00 AM: Salted-chocolate caramel cruller and coffee.
Nadelberg 9:27 AM: Attempted to nab coffee from restaurant next to hotel.
Chelotti 9:30 AM: I walk to the bookfair and walk around retrieving information on low-residency programs to help out Andrew, and to do some research for Elms College—where I teach—who might be interested in starting such a program. Doing this, I bump into and meet so many people to mention. One highlight: hugging Luke Bloomfield and Emily Pettit—we all talk about Rachel B. Glaser’s book and excitedly talk about interested publishers. Rachel isn’t here this year, but she is everywhere.
Nadelberg 9:40 AM: Jesus H. Coffee. Shared biscuits with Alan who had eggs and yogurt and granola (separate plates). Told him about my new favorite words. (Hunder, cive, beauregard.) I have eggs too. I don’t fret about eggs on consecutive days because that notion is from the ‘50s and I have good cholesterol.
Nadelberg 10:42 AM: Listened to panel on research in poetry workshops, Jena Osman has a beautiful voice. Thought about how my Aunt Ollie calls the show “Dances with Stars.”
Nadelberg 11:05 AM: Tallied the morning’s shower. Susan M. Schultz says, Male seahorse that gave birth to babies. Eleni Sikelianos mentions Brenda Coultas’s “The Bowery Project,” one of the greatest poems ever, which I’ve somehow forgotten about and remembering now feels like Christmas. Cole Swenson says, lend your stake-i-ness, and the crowd laughs and I think about skirt steak, which my mother makes when I come home even though I pretend I’m a vegetarian.
Nadelberg 11:47 AM: – 12:20 PM: Bought books faster than I can read them.
Moffett 12:00 PM: Here is a true fact about Marianne Boruch (winner of the Kingsley Tufts Prize and strange and wonderful person): she loves Chipotle. We perch on weird industrial stools and eat burritos. We next move to a coffee shop to meet Mary Szybist (winner of the National Book Award and exceedingly lovely and kind person). These meetings are wrangled out of the chaos of AWP so my parents can meet the teachers I’ve had.
Nadelberg 12:31 PM: Small plate of Brussels sprouts in the rain with new acquaintance. Talked about arts organizations and dream jobs and methods of communication (the phone, really, it’s coming back, speaking to people in person is, too). Head back to read poems in a tent to willing strangers.
Moffett 1:20 PM: Mary and Marianne rush off together to their 1:30 appointments, leaving us all dazzled.
Chelotti 1:50 PM: After I completed the task, I came back to the hotel to get more sleep. I am now heading back to the bookfair to get my tarot cards read by Hoa Ngyuen at the Wave Books table.
Moffett 2:00 PM: I do the Thank-You-For-Accepting-My-Poem-Into-Your-Magazine walk around the bookfair. Some people seem genuinely happy to meet me, and some seem a little confused—most are not the poetry editors and so have no idea who I am. Pleiades is the friendliest table of all.
Chelotti 2:05 PM: The tarot reading begins. Celtic cross. The first thing Hoa says: Who is the woman? This dancer? This queen in your life? I don’t know, Hoa. The last card is The Hanged Man, and it leads us to talk about Odin. She asks me to pull another card—it is the page of cups. She asks me to pull another from another deck to elucidate its meaning, and it is another page of cups. She is visibly shaken by the odds of this. I am, too. Who is this woman? What tree do I need to hang from to find her?
Moffett 2:37 PM: I go by the McSweeney’s table where the brightly colored books are lego’d together in a nice way. I am given two Believer magazines for “being on the clock.” I am asked to put in my diary that the men manning the table are especially nice and good-looking.
Chelotti 4:00 PM: I met up with Jesse and we walked around the bookfair, talking with a million people. Highlights: I finally get to meet Emily Kendal Frey, who I’ve been hoping to meet for years; I do my best Captain Picard imitation for Erica Mena-Landry; I put off hugging Mathias Svalina for as long as I can, and when we finally hug we do the waltz that two people waltz when the hug almost knocks them over.
Chelotti 4:15 PM: I bump into Victoria Chang and Dominic Luxford as I leave the bookfair and we talk about how strange it is to keep a time-stamped record of our days.
Chelotti 4:30 PM: I am nodding in the corner of the convention center near the entrance to the bookfair. I am charging my phone. I am reading at 8:00 at the Hugo House.
Chelotti 5:30 PM: I am in the hotel and decide that I am not going to wear my velvet jacket to the reading as I had planned. I instead go with a black and white Picasso shirt and a gray zippered hoodie. This is a good decision.
Chelotti 6:30 PM: Jesse and I snack on more gummy bears and then take a cab up to the Hugo House. We drop off our things and then head out for food and drinks.
Chelotti 7:15 PM: We meet up with Andrew at the Lost Lake Lounge. I ask the bartender what he would recommend—he says, You look like an Odin man. What? What the fuck? He pours me an Odin as I send a Facebook message to Hoa—what is happening Hoa?
Chelotti 7:30 PM: I notice that Christopher Salerno is at the bar—and he is so kind and gives me a copy of his book.
Chelotti 7:55 PM: I am watching the crowd come in to the reading. The nerves and excitement are making me forget about my throat.
Nadelberg 8:00 PM: Ate pizza from the place next to Lava Lounge at the Lava Lounge with Peter and Alan. Learned about “Dumb Poetry” (ask Peter).
Moffett 8:30 PM: Sherman Alexie (I know, I know I am supposed to be at the Jane Hirshfield reading) is hilarious and I love him. (This is in part because I am from Eastern Washington and my whole life it was either this one Lewis and Clark documentary or Smoke Signals every time we had a substitute teacher.)
Moffett 9:00 PM: It’s true, though, that I leave thinking that poetry is the superior genre.
Nadelberg 9:10 PM: Peed at the Hard Rock Café. Their dessert menu changed, fyi.
Nadelberg 9:20 PM: Asked Alan what drug is this on people’s faces.
Chelotti 9:26 PM: I dodge the people approaching to say Good reading and go to the bathroom upstairs. I stare in the mirror and have this uncanny moment where I look for myself at 21, standing in a bar in St. Petersburg, Russia, staring into a mirror. For some unknown reason, ever since I stood swaying drunk in that mirror in Russia, I have compared every metaphysical gaze in the mirror to that gaze. Some hope for fortune. Some moment of being. It hasn’t happened in a while. Hoa, what the hell is going on?
Chelotti 9:33 PM: I am back talking to people, and I am talking to people, and then I am talking to one person: Beth Ayer, editor of Found Poetry Review. She lives in Providence.
Nadelberg 9:40 PM: Ate cookie. Alan had chocolate and announced it gave him energy. Or as William Steig would say, N-R-G.
Moffett 9:45 PM: AWP dance floor. The DJ yells AWP, 2014!!! Everyone cheers.
Chelotti 9:48 PM: I run outside because I keep thinking I should’ve asked Beth for a drink. She is nowhere to be found. A friend asks me who I’m looking for, listens, and says, Easy, John Cusack. I smoke an ill-advised cigarette with Conor and Thalia.
Nadelberg 10:00 PM: Gave reading at anarchist bookstore. I think about John Candy at least once a day.
Chelotti 10:45 PM: I walk to Linda’s and the New York / Pioneer Valley crowd is all there. I get to hang with all the good people as I start to remember that I feel awful. This is the last place Kurt Cobain was seen alive. I could try and say this doesn’t mean much to me, but it does.
Sunday, March 2
Chelotti 12:01 AM: As I so often do in the valley, I walk away from the bar with Luke Bloomfield. I tell him about the weird day. He tells me of his hard day. We part ways on a street corner. I stop in the Sheraton Hotel bar just in case.
Chelotti 12:58 AM: Jesse calls me down to smoke underneath trees bedecked with white lights. I do so even though my throat kills. I tell him about the missed connection. We talk about our travels together, about how this is still just the beginning. We don’t say what this is, but, whatever this is, we believe in it.
Chelotti 1:30 AM: I’ll just have to let the missed connection go. It is silly of me. Good night, Jesse. Good night, AWP.
Nadelberg 6:45 AM: Got dressed in dark. Alan is a light sleeper. Succeed, though he sat up in his bed when I opened the door to go and I said, bye Moo, and he waved.
Chelotti 7:40 AM: I wake up and start scrolling through my phone. I check Twitter. Beth got in touch to tell me that I was wearing the same shirt last night as I am in my Twitter profile pic.
Chelotti 8:20 AM: Jesse and I are sitting in a café window staring out at a damp street talking about ideas of love and charity in Lawrence and Dostoyevsky.
Nadelberg 8:20 AM: Felt sad seeing all the geriatrics in the pre-screened TSA line. Wondered about the inefficiencies of them removing their belts and shoes slowly vs. the damage caused by letting them think they can’t remove their articles fast enough.
Chelotti 8:50 AM: Climbing into the cab, Ken Waldman, Alaska’s fiddling poet, appears and tells me what a pleasure it was meeting me. Likewise, Ken Waldman.
Nadelberg 8:50 AM: Wondered if the lentils in my fridge are still okay.
Nadelberg 8:55 AM: Saw dear friends Chris Martin and Mary Austin Speaker waiting for my plane. We sit in the same row (22) and I show their son Atticus all the things one might see out the window (horse, tree, dog, lake, rainbow, bear, trolley) of an airplane like a live production of a Richard Scarry book in the sky.
Chelotti 9:25 AM: I say farewell to Jesse in the terminal. I slowly walk toward the security checkpoint thinking about how being sick kept me from so many panels and readings, rendezvous and hugs, but it is all ok. AWP is practically made of what we cannot do. Elias Canetti has a beautiful fragment: “A head full of stars, just not in constellation yet.” As the fresh memory begins to distill into the stories that I will tell about this time in Seattle, I am happy to stroll through this last bit alive with the mess of it.
Chelotti 9:30 AM: I end up in line for security with the wonderful Kelin Loe and the wonderful Leora Freidman. Kelin asks me how my AWP was. I smile. And because I have the luxury of the formed constellation—editing this three weeks after it happened—I wink and grin, and she knows exactly what I mean.
Read the individual entries:
Dan Chelotti is the author of x (McSweeney’s, 2013) and a chapbook, The Eights (Poetry Society of America, 2006). He teaches English at Elms College and lives in Massachusetts.
Rosalie Moffett is from Eastern Washington. She received her MFA in poetry from Purdue University and is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow in the department of Creative Writing at Stanford University. Her poems have appeared in Tin House, The Believer, FIELD, Prairie Schooner, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cincinnati Review, AGNI, Pleiades, Indiana Review and other magazines, as well as the anthology Gathered: Contemporary Quaker Poets.
Amanda Nadelberg is the author of Isa the Truck Named Isadore, winner of the 2005 Slope Editions Book Prize, and a chapbook, Building Castles in Spain, Getting Married, published by the Song Cave. A recipient of grants from the Fund for Poetry and the Iowa Arts Council, she is a graduate of Carleton College and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was awarded a Truman Capote Fellowship and a Teaching-Writing Fellowship. Bright Brave Phenomena is her second book of poems. She lives in the Bay Area.
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