Afterwords, Commentary

Afterwords: AWP 2014 // Superlatives

by Rich Smith, Contributing Writer

For all the general debauchery, hedonism, hooliganism, missed drinks, missed sleep, frowns above triple digit bar tabs, poetrybomb readings, skipped panels, hangovers, retroactive hangovers, I still managed to read, hear, and talk about a whole lot of exciting contemporary poetry and prose. Here’s a roundup of the best moments from the best AWP I’ve ever been to.

Best Quote About Seattle: I’m torn between “You mean there’s more than one pie place?” and “That’s the most beautiful tree I’ve ever seen—no, that one is!”

Best Quote About AWP: “This AWP conference is the best thing ever!” —Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar Owner Diana Adams, and also every other bar owner in Capitol Hill and Belltown.

Best Panel: I only caught half of Reading Stevens for Writers: The Mind at the End of the Palm. But my AWP Boyfriend, Jaswinder, who heard the whole thing, said Stanley Plumly told everyone all they needed to know about Stevens.


Bizarrest Love: Riding up and down the escalators at the convention.

Most Common Moment: Staring into what I thought was a neutral middle distance but what turned out to be someone else’s face.

Best Reading: At the Poetry Northwest reading at the Pine Box, Don Share read a poem that contained the refrain “then I would study war no more.” I want to find that poem and steal it.

Best Party Disguised as a Reading: VIDA at Hugo House. I wasn’t even there. But I heard things. I heard things that made me very jealous.

Best Book Fair Walkabout Partner: Emily Kendal Frey. It felt like I was walking with President Marilyn Barack Monroe Obama.

Greatest Achievement (not mine): Hugo House Marketing Manager Kristen Steenbeeke sinking the University of Miami table’s plush basketball into the toy hoop from way downtown, and after several futile attempts from passersby.

Greatest Achievement (mine): Saying hi to Olena Kalytiak Davis, to whom I wrote but never sent my first epistle-type love poem. I was 23 and working in a kitchen in Columbia, MO and I had just read a few poems from Shattered Sonnets and decided she was the only one for me.

Best conversation: Me and Mark Halliday spitballin’ and arguing about the end of Heather McHugh’s poem “What He Thought.”

Most Awkward Moment: I told the cashier at the book fair that I had been an actor in the Bush era. Then, mistaking me for a Republican, she started winking and nodding at me a lot. I think she also went in for a secret handshake.

Favorite Scene: Me and five friends squeezed into my tiny apartment’s tiny kitchen at 3:00AM, cooking eggs, drinking bourbon, pulling books from my cabinets and reading our favorite poems, falling asleep one by one.

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Rich Smith is the author of Great Poem of Desire and Other Poems, published by Poor Claudia. His poems have appeared or will soon appear in Tin House, City Arts Magazine, Guernica, Southeast Review, Hobart, Barrow Street, The Bellingham Review, Pleiades, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. He is the co-host of Late Dinners and the Books & Talks editor at City Arts.