Best Practices for Submitting an AWP Panel Proposal

By Megan Clark
Portland was not my first AWP rodeo (albeit my first one with New South!). With that in mind, I wanted to take the extra step this year and discover how I can become more active in the conference. Thursday night, I attended the LGBTQ Writers Caucus and connected with fellow queer writers. We discussed how to better have our voices heard by the organization and how to further promote queer writing at events.

This discussion helped spur me and a fellow writer-colleague to discuss proposing n panel for next year’s AWP conference in San Antonio. We had previously spoken and roughly outlined a roundtable presentation concerning queerness and domesticity in writing. As someone who has attended multiple AWP conferences but never presented at one, I felt the time was right, not only to potentially become a panelist, but also to propose an event that would diversify the conference schedule with our focus on often-marginalized queer writers.

On Saturday, I attended a panel entitled “Best Practices for Submitting an AWP Panel Proposal.” This discussion was extremely helpful in breaking down the steps for sending in a proposal as well as tips for getting the proposal accepted. I learned about the breakdown of event categories and the importance of balancing between picking a category that accurately describes the panel and choosing a category that is less competitive. (There are probably a lot of panels proposed about fiction craft and criticism.) We were also encouraged to be mindful of ensuring the panelists were a diverse group — across age, gender, race, etc. — so that it would include a wide range of voices and appeal to a broader audience.

Throughout my time at this year’s AWP conference, I was able to approach writers who would work well on my potential panel, which was received with interest. I was even able to snag a couple of yeses!

Creative Self-Care: Balancing Your Own Writing with Support for Your Students

By Megan Clark

AWP 2019 Blog Posts

 As a graduate student at GSU, a creative writer, and an English instructor, finding balance between these roles is difficult to say the least. This stress-inducing situation is why I decided to attend this panel focused on what they termed “creative self-care.” The panelists first asked us to think about all the “buckets” in our lives: the personal, professional, creative commitments we have. The metaphor becomes that we can’t keep all these buckets full at the same time. It’s impossible; we’ll wear ourselves out by doing so, thus being ineffective writers and teachers.

To be better able to serve our students in their own creative work, we must, as one panelist said, “put our oxygen mask on first.” Then everyone shared strategies for making sure “our oxygen mask” was on, that we are taking care of ourselves before helping others. For example, one panelist creates transitions in her day between teaching and writing. She focuses on finding those moments to be in nature or a place in the home where she can write in an inspired space. This way she’s more open and receptive to the next task.

Also, another strategy shared involved writing in 45-minute blocks of time and then taking 15 minutes off. Those 15 minutes are a time to treat yourself for the hard work. Rinse and repeat. This panelist stressed not tying your writing to a certain time of day. So, at any time, she’ll see the opportunity to write within any unoccupied 45 minutes. This helps train yourself to write at any time of day. This strategy also works for teaching tasks, like grading, or miscellaneous tasks like checking email. This way you can be done with it and move on with the day! This helps ensure that the “teaching” bucket doesn’t get fuller and fuller while the “writing” bucket gets depleted.

Greywolf Press Presents a Reading by Ilya Kaminsky

By Greg Emilio

The highlight of my AWP experience this year was getting to hear the magnanimous Ukrainian-American poet Ilya Kaminsky give a reading from his most recent and long-anticipated second collection of poetry, Deaf Republic. In a nutshell, the collection is a fabulist novel in verse about a Soviet town called Vasenka, whose residents rebel against their totalitarian government by becoming deaf after soldiers execute a young boy named Petya in public. Kaminsky read from the first section of the book, the narrative thread that follows a man named Alfonso and his wife Sonya, who is a cousin of Petya. In his wild, incantatory reading style Kaminsky delivered a story of loss and protest and unchecked government aggression—the soldiers kill all the main characters—that has clear parallels to the current political turmoil in America and abroad. “And when they bombed other people’s houses, we//protested/ but not enough, we opposed them but not// enough,” begins the first poem of the book, “We Lived Happily during the War.” Kaminsky seemed to be reminding the audience that passive disapproval does nothing to change the behavior of big government. The poem ends with the narrator regretfully admitting, “we (forgive us)// lived happily during the war.”

I also loved what Kaminsky had to say in the brief talk after the reading. The moderator asked him about the long wait between Kaminsky’s first and second books, a span of nearly fifteen years, which might as well be dog years in the poetry world. Kaminsky said quite assuredly that some poets keep diaries, others “build houses.” He is without a doubt a master craftsman, a visionary poet, a guiding light not only for the literary community, but for all invested in imagining the world as a better place. If we’ve all become deaf with the white noise of today’s world, Deaf Republic could be the hearing aid, the wakeup call, we so desperately need.The highlight of my AWP experience this year was getting to hear the magnanimous Ukrainian-American poet Ilya Kaminsky give a reading from his most recent and long-anticipated second collection of poetry, Deaf Republic. In a nutshell, the collection is a fabulist novel in verse about a Soviet town called Vasenka, whose residents rebel against their totalitarian government by becoming deaf after soldiers execute a young boy named Petya in public. Kaminsky read from the first section of the book, the narrative thread that follows a man named Alfonso and his wife Sonya, who is a cousin of Petya. In his wild, incantatory reading style Kaminsky delivered a story of loss and protest and unchecked government aggression—the soldiers kill all the main characters—that has clear parallels to the current political turmoil in America and abroad. “And when they bombed other people’s houses, we//protested/ but not enough, we opposed them but not// enough,” begins the first poem of the book, “We Lived Happily during the War.” Kaminsky seemed to be reminding the audience that passive disapproval does nothing to change the behavior of big government. The poem ends with the narrator regretfully admitting, “we (forgive us)// lived happily during the war.”

I also loved what Kaminsky had to say in the brief talk after the reading. The moderator asked him about the long wait between Kaminsky’s first and second books, a span of nearly fifteen years, which might as well be dog years in the poetry world. Kaminsky said quite assuredly that some poets keep diaries, others “build houses.” He is without a doubt a master craftsman, a visionary poet, a guiding light not only for the literary community, but for all invested in imagining the world as a better place. If we’ve all become deaf with the white noise of today’s world, Deaf Republic could be the hearing aid, the wakeup call, we so desperately need.

#SonnetsSoWhite?: Poets of Color on Race and Traditional Verse Forms

By Greg Emilio
One of the most meaningful panels I attended at AWP 2019 was titled, “#SonnetsSoWhite?: Poets of Color on Race and Traditional Verse Forms.” The purpose of this panel was to explore the ways that writers of color have been engaging with, and reinvigorating, received poetic forms, which have largely been the province of white male poets. Many of the poets on the panel pointed back to the English language’s most famous and prolific sonneteer, Shakespeare, as being their gateway into formal verse. But the Bard wasn’t just a gateway, but a gatekeeper for these poets. The heightened romantic language of his sonnets presents an enormous obstacle for any young reader, but especially for young readers, and aspiring writers, of color. For these poets, Shakespeare may as well have been writing in a foreign language. The sonnets feel alien and elitist. Most of the poets talked about how they felt they didn’t have access to sonnet’s lofty realm—they didn’t have the keys to the kingdom.

One poet, Erica Dawson, spoke about how, even after she’d gained the poetic wherewithal (the keys) to understand Shakespeare, she fell into the trap of imitation, of wanting to sound like dead white poets. For much of the history of contemporary poetry, free verse has been the chosen form for poets of color. As a black woman writing in form, Dawson explains that she was often seen as participating in the hegemonic norms of poetry. She was seen as submissive rather than radical. However, further along in her poetic path, Dawson learned to use these traditional forms as a tool of subversion. In her current book, When Rap Spoke Straight to God, she mixes formal and free verse to create a unique poetics of resistance. She makes the bold claim that poets of color need not fear form; they should embrace the modes of expression that express them best. If a poet of color feels their voice at home in formal verse, then they should master those forms.

As a poet drawn to form, I was fascinated by this panel’s discussion. As a white male poet, I feel compelled to reassess the reasons why I’m drawn to formal poetry. I have to make sure I’m not pursuing a poetry of elitism and exclusion. I believe that formal poetry deserves a place among free verse in our contemporary poetic landscape. But, we must, all of us who practice form, breathe fresh breath into these forms. We should be writing poems (formal or free) that aren’t gates or keys, but imaginative pockets of empathy—rooms in which we might try to make art more meaningful for all.

The Poetry of the Commonplace

By Josh Martin

Any serious poet knows to be attentive, to have an ear constantly open. Yet the question becomes: to what should the poet turn their attention? On the large sociopolitical issues that break and reshape the world? Or should the poet be possessed by the smaller, local issues that preoccupy the individual?

In a panel titled “Commonplace Live: A Reading Featuring Guests of Rachel Zucker’s Podcast,” I listened to Rachel Zucker, Ross Gay, Adam Falkner, Sabrina Mark, and Gabrielle Calvocoressi give their answers. Though each poet writes from vastly different experiences and styles- from the overtly political poetry of Calvocoressi to the more confessional incantations of Gay – each poet stressed a “poetry of the commonplace,” a poetry suffused with the common objects and actions that make us human.

Ross Gay’s creative nonfiction piece/prose poem titled “Loitering is Delightful” especially stood out. In the piece, Ross stresses “loitering’s” racial dimensions, arguing that loitering, for people of color, is considered a crime by white power structures that seek the removal of black bodies from public spaces. Yet Ross also argues that the act of loitering is fundamentally human and is, in fact, a means of subverting a capitalist system based on constant productivity: “[loitering] which leads to being, even if only temporarily, nonconsumptive, and this is a crime in America, and more explicitly criminal depending upon any number of quickly apprehended visual cues.”

Listening to Gay argue for the need for the “unproductive” day made me feel so damn good. There is a serious problem in this country based on the addiction to productivity. We are (especially people of color) chastised for being unproductive; one must only look at the myriad negative connotations given to one who loiters: a loafer, a slob, a dillydallier. What is absent is daydreamer and creator. As I left the panel and ventured out into a space that demands constant movement and energy (if you’ve been to AWP, you know what I mean), hearing Gay discuss the need to simply do nothing was incredibly reassuring. Doing nothing, like doing something, is inherently a political act. And in this fast-paced, twitter-drunk, Facebook-crazed world, being a “loiterer” may be the best thing to be.

On Patience and Poetry

By Josh Martin

On Friday, March 29th, I had the privilege of hearing two poets whose work I greatly admire read in front of a beautifully-packed ballroom: Tess Gallagher and Ilya Kaminsky.

While their readings were almost transcendent in their delivery (especially Kaminsky’s, whose voice is imbued with the rich history, violence, and rhythms of Russia), the discussion after the reading actually proved the most fruitful for me. One topic in particular especially resonated: the role of patience in the writing of poetry. Ilya Kaminsky, a much younger poet than Tess Gallagher, answered first, arguing that poetry is something that should not and cannot be rushed. In fact, when Kaminsky’s second book debuted in March 2019, fifteen years, fifteen, had passed between this book and his first book of poetry. Fifteen.

In this age of mass production, of poets churning out book after book after book as if manuscripts were Fords rolling off conveyer belts in Detroit, in this age where if you are not first than why even bother, this amount of time passing for a poet imbued with Kaminsky’s genius is mind-boggling. And yet, perhaps Kaminsky is right in maintaining that good art needs time to absorb all of its flavor and spice. Deaf Republic, Kaminsky’s second book, is a work of pure brilliance, a work that cannot be created without, well, patience. Though most of the poems are short, each line is rhythmically perfect, almost spiritually animated. It does not take much examination to note that each and every one of Kaminsky’s lines and breaks have been pored over the way one might examine the intricacies of an atom through a microscope.

Patience. The word almost seems cliché. And yet in our society, especially in the poetry world, patience is not a virtue lauded. Patience does not sit well with presses who are making what little money there is off the backs of big name poets who put out a book a year (a lot of these turn out to be complete crap, by the way). Patience also does not sit well with young writers everywhere who are made to believe that if “artistic brilliance” does not hit before thirty, then they are failures that need to take up business or law. As I finish my dissertation and want, desperately, to get my first book out, listening to a poet as brilliant as Kaminsky talk about the necessity of patience in poetry was tremendously refreshing. Whenever I feel like a failure because I have not produced enough quickly enough, I will think of the number fifteen. I will also think of Horace who I believe said every poet should write then put their work away for nine years!

While I don’t think I have that much will power, the point is clear: one cannot rush a poem. Poetry requires patience. If you read and are attentive to the world, everything else will fall into place.

Mental Health Matters: Practical Guide for the Touring Musician

By Troi Allen-Lowery

I was really excited about this SXSW panel because I think mental health is super important. I was expecting the panel to be able how to deal with your mental health while touring on the road. However, it was more like a shameless self-promotion. The moderator had a product they were trying to promote, saying how great it is on the go and to put on riders.

The panel was pretty ridiculous, to say the least. It benefited off of the topic of mental health to sell a product that no one out right had any interest in to begin with. While I normally have no problem people selling or advertising their products, this was really disingenuous so it really rubbed me the wrong way. Mental health, especially in the any creative field, is super important and should be talked about a lot.   

SXSW Featured Session: Heavenly Pop Hit  

By Troi Allen-Lowery

This panel was about songwriters’ creative process and how they deal with time management. On the panel was members from Cherry Glazerr, The Chills, Superchunk, Nada Surf, and Andrew WK. They talked about how they had to adjust the time they would usually have for creating music when other priorities came in their lives, like raising a child. They also talked about how they find inspiration for their songs.

Going into it I thought it was solely going to be performances, so I was a little surprised when I realized it was mainly one big discussion. I feel like they didn’t really talk about the creative process of making music but more so how to deal with change and time management. It was interesting how most of the songs the artists performed were very politically charged.

New South goes to Portland: AWP 2019

By Anna Sandy

New South
took our largest collective yet (seven staff members!) to this year’s Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference.

Hosted in Portland, OR, the conference hosted keynotes by the likes of Colson Whitehead and Jesmyn Ward, readings both on-site and off-site by a myriad of amazing writers and poets, panels on topics ranging from pedagogy to craft to the personal, and, of course, the giant, sprawling book fair in which we were all swallowed up day after day before being spit, disoriented, back into the Portland sunshine.

(Yes, you read that right; it was sunny in Portland).

As always, New South’s colorful and eye-catching booth drew several people to our tables, allowing us to rope in new contributors, chat with old ones, promote our annual contest, sell our books, and more. This year, in particular, a pile of pastel popsicle-shaped lip balms were our biggest hit and disappeared in the first day. Thanks, Target!

We were also lucky enough to get our newest issue in the nick of time and release it at the conference, along with selling copies of back issues. Like in previous years, the conference/book fair is invaluable for promotion and we have received several submissions in its aftermath and expect still more to come.

Going into our twelfth year as the rebranded New South, things are getting better. I’m excited to see where we go from here.

AWP Portland: New South @ Cider Riot!

By Anna Sandy

By far, my favorite off-site reading at this year’s AWP was our own.

New South partnered up with INCH, Four Way Review, and Construction Magazine to host a myriad of our respective contributors at a cidery and we easily filled the room. Between the four journals, we had over twenty readers on the lineup so each reader was limited to a short and sweet four or five minutes or two to three poems.

This quick turnaround between readers kept things moving, allowed each reader to highlight their strongest writing, and prevented restlessness in the crowd. The room was filled, with standing room only in the back, and there wasn’t a single reader whose performance wasn’t strong (though I did hear there was a weird piece while I went for a restroom break, I can’t speak to that). One of my favorite things about AWP is being able to give New South’s talented contributors a space to share their work at the largest writing conference we have as well as giving myself and the rest of New South’s staff the opportunity to hear the work we loved and published aloud and form connections with our contributors face-to-face.

This year, one of our partnering journals is edited by a former contest winner, Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, and it was a lovely moment to be in the room with both her and our latest contest winner, J. Bailey Hutchinson, who both read and flattened the room with their poems.

While the bookfair is an overwhelming and terrifically fun experience and the panels can be informative and enlightening, I always love the readings the most--whether I am a host, a reader, or an audience member. I think this year’s New South reading was the most successful yet and I look forward to San Antonio next year.