I’ve just returned from the 2011 AWP (The Association of Writers & Writing Programs) Annual Conference and Bookfair. This year, AWP was held in Washington, DC at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, February 2-5th. I met some brilliant, creative minds and reconnected with friends and colleagues.
I met the Bookfair with all the excitement of the narrator in Joyce’s “Araby,” however, did not experience any aftershocks of disillusionment. Though at times overwhelming, the Bookfair did not disappoint. I was able to visit the booths and tables of many of my favorite publishers, literary journals, and poetry organizations.
The highlight of AWP, for me, was participating in a Saturday morning panel: The Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project. The panel was composed of poets Anna Evans, Kim Bridgford, Erica Dawson, Jehanne Dubrow, and Kathrine Varnes, and all did a tremendous job. (The Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project, founded by Kim Bridgford, is an online database of essays on women poets which aspires to become a comprehensive resource of all women poets throughout history). The panel addressed the great relevance of the timeline, reported on its progress and dealt with the processes of handling copyright issues and contributing essays.
At the end of the panel, I read the Women Poets Roll Call, a tradition Kim Bridgford founded in March 2010 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts at the Timeline Project launch. At every Mezzo Cammin presentation, women poets who identify as such sign their names as they enter. These names are read at the conclusion of the event, encouraging women poets to “stand and be counted,” something that, throughout history, many women have not been able to do. What a moving experience to read out the names of so many talented women and watch them rise in their seat, and remain standing until the end of the roll call, when the whole room resounded with applause.