Monday, October 18, 2010


Is this going to be an "original" post? Probably not.

But like my friend K says, "Sure, everyone does it, but it's like a traditional fixed form now. Bitching about AWP is like writing a villanelle."

It's only October, and I am debating going to AWP in February.

Some people hate going to AWP. Because they think it's stressful. At AWP in April, my friend L and I walked around, and over and over, we heard people say, I AM SO STRESSED. OMG ARE YOU STRESSED? AWP IS SO STRESSFUL.

Later at the hotel, L said to me, "Can I tell you that I LAUGH at people who think AWP is stressful. LAUGH, Liz. Do you hear me laughing? Because I am. I am laughing at those people."

I hear her point. Still, it is stressful, being smart enough to know that such a thing as AWP even exists. It is stressful, being rich enough to spend $1,000 to drink beer and go to poetry readings for four days. Can I keep bringing up Africa? See previous I AM A TOTALLY OVERWORKED INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGNER, DO YOU HEAR ME? post. God, I love Africa!

But seriously, here's is my quandary. I am a geek and when I read the descriptions of all the interesting panels at AWP, I was very excited. Then I went and I was very sad. Those panels made me feel sorry for all of us, for every single person on earth.

My friend K says, "Panels are not the point of AWP. The point of AWP is Book Fair! The point of AWP is Hanging!"

So it seems if I decide to go this year, I have to get over the idea of going for the panels--in other words, going to gather knowledge about poetry and poems and "the industry" of poetry in a formal setting.

"This is a fantasy," K assures me.

It's just that . . . instructional design conferences? They are so dang useful. It is the whole point of them: Utility. In my experience, IDs are not above shit that is useful. I like that about them very much. If you go to an instructional design conference, here is what will happen:

1. You will read the panel description--crystal.

2. You will go into that panel and it will start on time and be in the room it says it's going to be in and be led by the people who are supposed to be leading it.

3. You will be delivered exactly what you were promised. An hour of interactive, dynamic, on topic, applicable knowledge that blows your head off, even if you thought you were not that interested in the subject.

4. You will walk away, uttering a sentence such as, "God, I never knew cognitive load theory could be so titilating."

To be fair, it is the whole point of the instructional design conferences, i.e., the instruction. One upping your peers. Making your panel more interesting, memorable, useful, and fun than your neighbor's. Stuffing your awesome and oh-so-instructionally-sound panel in your lame-o instructional design neighbor's panel's face.

At ID conferences, one is expected to bring one's game to the panel. And those design nerds? Oh, they bring it. Design nerds take games and gaming seriously.

Part of it might be, there are no superstars in instructional design; there is only good design/bad design. But that's not true really. There are superstars in design, even the nerdy kind of design (instruction). But if they gave some stupid presentation, they would get rotten tomatoes thrown at them just like everybody else. They know this, so they would never ride into a design panel on their high-design famousness and blab for an hour, all bumbly jumbly.

Whereas with AWP, I get the strong sense that as long as somebody is "famous," he has license to rattle on loonishly or read a boring and/or insane lecture off an I-Phone. After all, "That's the guy who wrote a 'well-known' poem in 1974. There must be something brilliant knocking around in that bobbly head somewhere. Even if it never comes to surface during this hour-long panel."

Considering I've never been much of a "starstruck" kind of person, I found myself sitting through the panels, wondering a couple of things:

1. Why are there no rotten tomatoes flying through the air right now? Poets are not athletic enough to throw rotten tomatoes maybe?

2. If five people know you--three of them former students--how famous does that make you?

3. Not to beg the question, but . . . most of you are TEACHERS of some kind, aren't you?
Has anyone else gone to any other conferences? If so, how did the panels compare to those at AWP?

Maybe I'm just a bad panel picker? Is there such a thing as a bad panel picker? If so, how does one self-identify?


  1. AWP is about hanging. If you are stressed, you haven't surrounded yourself with enough people who think you are awesome.

  2. Agreed! I think you are awesome, Leigh. I do. In fact, I believe your stress-free AWP in April largely comes down to me being a freakish fan of TLSE (The Leigh Stein Experience).

  3. I'm a fan of TLSE, too, and also TLHE (The Liz Hildreth Experience)and thus, by extension, of AWP.

  4. "Whereas with AWP, I get the strong sense that as long as somebody is 'famous,' he has license to rattle on loonishly or read a boring and/or insane lecture off an I-Phone." Yeah pretty much. I always pick the wrong panels. Ugh. UGH, AWP!

  5. Elisa,
    Obviously an "interesting description" for me translates to a "WTF is this? panel." Same prob at restaurants, too. I order something and minutes later some deep fried mozzarella sticks are staring me right in the face, and I'm scratching my head: "Uh...I thought I was ordering something, I don't the polenta family?"

  6. I thought I posted to you Kathleen but I didn't. Anyway, as I was(n't) saying: From now on, I am going to think of AWP as my party house, full of beer and friends--the paneling ripped completely off.