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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Confession Tuesday - Post AWP Edition

Bless Me Reader For I Have AWPed::

It's been several weeks since my last confession, but let me focus on this past week.
It's been 7 days away from my office, two Delta plane flights, over 700 presses, literary journals and writing organizations, over 550 readings, panels and craft lectures, too much coffee and Diet Coke to count, notes and writing and more writing, faces I'd never seen, faces I wanted to meet for the first time and faces I didn't get to meet.  A week of much more walking then I would have done in a week of judicious tread mill sessions, a swim, a hot tub, more tweets than a hundred birds could do and little rest. 

This was my first time at AWP. Yes, I confess I was a newbie. It was also my first time in Minneapolis and St Paul (St Paul is another story). 

 I has a whole host of (good intention) warnings abut the event. I read any number of online articles geared for first timers in the weeks leading up to the event. I also had direct conversations with a hand full of veteran attendees. The overwhelming theme that I capt hearing and reading was that it was in fact overwhelming. Intimidating and draining were also words that I heard. Still, no one ever suggested it wasn't wort it. I would say that all the forgoing statements were true, 

I confess that I was overwhelmed before I left. How do you whittle down all the possible panel presentations none of which are repeated without sacrificing numerous ones you want and or should be at? My schedule was shifting sand right up to the presentation in some cases.  I will give my wife credit for helping me ask myself questions to narrow the list somewhat. It was nice that Cathy too enough interest to engage in conversation about the options. She often has an ability to look at such things without as much emotion and ask good questions that can affirm one of your selections or in the alternative provide a significant rational to accept an alternative. 

It was overcast on our decent into Minneapolis and I was on an isle seat anyway. But I confess I only ever saw one lake in the state that boasts of Ten Thousand Lakes. I know, what are the odds? 

While it was my first time in Minneapolis, it was also my first time in St Paul. I confess that  I deboarded the blue line and caught a green line light rail and road to it's stop. This mysteriously placed me in St Paul. I was certain of my mental notes that I had done what I was to do, but alas I confess that the embarrassing mistake delayed my arrival at my hotel by a couple of hours.  No that I think about it, this means I was actually twice in Minneapolis.I got on the second train where I should have made my departure for my hotel only six blocks away.  I will give the city kudos for their public transportation. The light rail is efficient (if you know what you are doing) and affordable. It intigrates well with their bus service as well.


The event is both draining and inspiring. If you were to several panels back to back, there was not much time to do much but a quick restroom break and hustle to the next panel.

Here are some of the panels I attended:
  • Thank you for the Surgery
  • Confronting our fears and turning Adversity into Art
  •  The Pink Tuxedos
  • Intimate Communities: How to Form and Keep a Writing Group that Works
  • Old Friends Who've Never Met and Some Poems
  • The Best New Poets: A 10th Anniversary Reading
  • A Room of One's Own, Plus Others:Writers Shared Spaces and Communities
  • The Sentence and the Line. A Journey  Meaning Makes
  • James Wright in Minneapolis
  • Melancholy and the Literary Uses of Sadness
  • A Tribute to Jane Kenyon
  • I Am Me as You Are We - Exploring Pronouns in Experimental Poetry
  • Echos of Displacement; Sound in Poetries of Diaspora
I confess some of these were quite different than what I might have  expected. That is not to say they were bad, just surprisingly moved on the subjects in ways that were different than I might have assumed.

A Surprise: I was taken pleasantly by surprise to learn from a couple of presenters that they had taken different routes in their writing path than a MFA. I confess that this was actually a liberating experience. Understand if I had my life to do over (there is that catchy no do-overs thing) I would have likely considered another path that would have involved an MFA. At my age this is not really a practicality. But is was freeing in a way to see these people participating and seemingly positive signs that they did not let such things stand in their way of writing and achieving success. 


The incomparable Professor Biddinger
author of A Sunny Place with Adequate Water 

This makes a third book by Mary Biddinger  that  I own.

She is actually holding up Barn Owl Review - which I meant to pick up a copy of and will now have to order.

On the right I am pictured with poet Jessica Smith. Jessica and I both share a passion for birds. I am anxious to delve into her most recent book Life Lists which forms the backdrop for this work.

Pictured on the left  is Eduardo Corral and Sandra Beasley who both read at a 10th Annual reading of the Best New Poets anthology. They were two of the four readers. All four were especially worthy of their selection for this. I've read Beasley's blog for years but had never met her until this reading. She has a compelling voice that is fresh and flourishing. You want to read more of her work upon the moment she is finished reading.

I also was excited to meet Nin  Andrews and pick up a copy of her new collection  Why God is a Woman


I confess the event was not without disappointments .  One of the biggest was missing the opportunity to meet Carolyn Forche and get a signed copy of one of her books.  I did not realize that her book signing was not a part of the scheduled book signings that were associated with the book table set up in the lobby area. My mistake was further complicated by people at the tables giving me two different days and times for here and as those times approached I was told something different. Finally I realized that she signed at a table inside the book fair and the time had passed, thus I was never able to connect. Carolyn is a favorite of mine and it would have been a big deal to have met her and gotten a signed book. 

After the fact disappointments - local poet Maryfrances Wagner and I each realized after returning home we had both been there and could have a lunch or a glass of wine together. 

I also realized yesterday the Andrea Beltran was there - again after the fact. 

There were a number of poets from the Northwest Pacific area that I would love to have met, skipped this years event. All of who I consider magical writers who are doing something very right  But life goes on. 


As the last rites are administered to AWP15 let me add a few closing thoughts.

  1. If you were from Minneapolis and out and about town after hours but may have appeared that a zombie apocalypse was occurring as there were writers walking every street with their eyes looking totally zoned out. And yes they were writers not Minnesotans - as evidenced by their name tags on lanyards and or AWP tote bags. 
  2. I cannot judge the WiFi against past conferences but it was spotty at best. I have no idea how many tweets were hung up in the tweetmosphere because the sender walked ten steps while tweeting.
  3. AWP is not going to make me a superior writer, but it has given me another window to look through. It has made me physically tired, but alas it has infused me with a charged mental attitude and a lot of new directional thinking. 
  4. There is no substitute for being immersed in and among remarkable writers and exceptional poetry. Also, bringing home lots of books and journals to feed the reading  experience. And I believe poets at al levels have a need to read. 
  5. I was glad to see and connect with advocacy groups for the arts and VIDA.
  6. So many poets in boots. Just had to throw that out there. Is this the replacement for the beret?
  7. And last, I was taken by the number of mothers with children, infants. I know taxing the conference was to me. I can hardly imagine the balancing act these women had to preform. I applaud their commitment to writing.  And yet I know for every one that was there with child there were untold numbers who wanted to be but it didn't work for them.  I'm thinking out loud here but I wonder if there has ever been consideration to child care options for the event? Maybe this has been explored. If not, it should be looked at. And surely dads and other family members, can offer a more supportive to young mothers. 
  8. I do what to give a shout out to my wife looked out for me from afar.She was concerned that I would forget to eat or something. I just know she was always concerned about it. Breakfast at my hotel was pretty awesome. The first day I shot a picture of my platter and messaged it to her to ease here mind. Afterwords, I realized I should have done like kidnappers and put the front page of the morning paper in the picture so the date was prominently displayed. 
My mind is still in overdrive. Hopefully it will slow a bit and my  energy level increase to where they are working in tandem soon. 


I have poems to write!

Complete List of the Big Poetry Giveaway for National Poetry Month - 2015

Listed below are links to each participating site.  Visit them all!

Sunday, April 05, 2015

National Poetry Month Drawing

For the second year I am participating in the Big Poetry Month Giveaway.  This event started 6 years ago by poet & writer  Kelli Russell Agodon. There are a list of participants at the at the link above so there are many opportunities to win. But as the say, "You can't win if you don't play."

I will be giving away two books - one to each of two lucky winners. The poetry books are:

BOOK ONE - Alter Ego of the Universe- by Amy Leigh Davis

Amy is a local poet in my community that I have know for a number of years and this is her first published work, a chapbook from 2011.

More about Amy and the book can be seen here in an interview I did with Amy soon after publication.

BOOK TWO -The Country Between Us - by Carolyn Forche

In my mind Carolyn Forche is one of the premier poets of witness poetry living and writing today. This was her second book of poetry published
but brought her international notoriety. If you have never read this book it is a must read for those especially interested in writing from the vantage point of sharing the complexities of social strife.

These are the two books I am giving away. If you are new to this blog site here s a little  about myself.

My name is Michael Allyn Wells. I live with my wife and three dogs in a suburban community of  . Kansas City, Missouri. (That's the big city. Surprisingly many visiting the city for the first time think they are in Kansas. Our smaller sister city is on that side of the of the state line).

I've been writing poetry ad reading locally for more years than I care to count. You can find publication credits at my web site

I'm an avid baseball fan  and to be more specifically a San Francisco Giants fan for nearly 40 years which made for an interesting situation during last year's World Series when the Giants met the Kansas City Royals.

I love reading and writing, sipping an occasion glass of wine. I prefer my wine white and my coffee black.

If you would judge me on the basis of my musical preferences you would think I was stuck in the 60's-80's. I loved music by Chicago, Crosby Stills & Nash, Bread, Three Dog Night, Air Supply, etc. I love the saxophone and I'm a big fan of Kenny G (much to the dismay of my grown children).

Some of my favorite desserts are German Chocolate Cake, Cheese Cake (no Raspberry sauce please) and Black Walnut Ice Cream.

Thanks for stopping by and God Luck!


If you've gotten this far then surely you want to enter the drawing. It’s simple too. All you have to do is just leave your name and email in the comment section of this post. This drawing is open to everyone through ALL OF APRIL 2015, National Poetry Month!

If you'd like to be entered, please leave your name and email address by midnight (Hawaii time), APRIL 30th, 2015 below in the comment section of this post and I'll be randomly choosing all lucky winners the week of May 1st, 2015.

Check it out and fully enjoy National Poetry Month 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My Thought for Today...

The morning birds sing of something
they seem to understand. About my week
I feel uncertain. Untied to any one star
and without an oar to row to that place
in the galaxy I have yet to subscribe to.
If only I could understand the language
that forms the birds song...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Confession Tuesday - St Patrick's Day Edition

Dear Reader:

Its been a week since my last confession. A week of doctor visits, zoo trip, and getting our car back from my daughter - thus ending our long period that I refer to as our shut-in era period.

Let's get started:

Sunday, I went to the zoo. It's maybe been two years since I was last there. We have a new penguin exhibit. I'm really impressed with how they have put the penguin habitat together. I confess whenever I go to a zoo I am always judging the animal's housing not only on it's people aesthetics but also how comfortable I believe the animals are. I ask myself if I feel like they are thriving in the exhibit or if I feel they are stifled in some way. I wonder, do other people do this when they visit zoos? 

The past three days I have been out of my routine in the evening. When I get out of my routine the Capricorn in me is not well. This has made it difficult for me to get any quality writing done, which I confess has made me cranky as well. It then becomes a vicious circle. 

Having our car back has been good, however like tonight  I came home and then promptly had two errands to run and suddenly I wanted to be home bound. I could not believe how many stores were out of distilled water. I confess I just got tired of not being able to unwind tonight as my work day had already worn me slick.

I confess that I love St Patrick's day and I especially love corned beef and cabbage. Cathy did a top notch job of cooking it tonight. I confess that I could eat Corned Beef every week. 

Tomorrow being hump day - I feel I have to turn the last half of the week around and get busy writing. I know that of I do so this will likely go a long was towards improving my overall disposition. 

I am wanting to read some new poetry over the next week to ten days. Work by poets that I am not already familiar with. Expand my reading horizon a bit.  I willing to entertain recommendations if anyone has any. 

That's it  for St Patrick's Day... Keep smiling and and be safe!  See you next week. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Confession Tuesday - The Tom Selleck Not Bert Reynolds Edition

Dear Reader:

It's been a week of poetry meetings - both attended and missed. A week in week of driving in which I became a trucker. A week of senior moment and mistaken identity or at least recall.

One of these two men are Bert Reynolds and the other Tom Selleck.
I confess that last night my wife and I were watching an episode of Blue Bloods and while discussing the character Frank Reagan on the show I referred to him as Bert Reynolds. This sent my wife into
a fit of hysterical euphoria. As soon as I said it, I knew it was the wrong name, but for the life of me I could not recall the name I was looking for. I knew he also played as the older gentleman on Friends who was an eye doctor and friend of Monica's family that she a a thing for. Still, try as I might I could not get Bert out of my head. It was not until I got up with the dogs around 3 AM this morning that the name Tom Sellick clicked with me. The occasional complete blank that I draw when it comes to some name is of course disconcerting to me. Fortunately I don't have lots of senior moments but I did not quite see the humor in it that Cathy did. Admittedly, I enjoyed the fact that she got such a kick out of it - even if it were at my expense. I believe there is a poem lurking here.

Daughter number two continues to drive our car though I understand she is has now found a new one to buy so this presumably will change. One day last week I had our car for a day to traverse between two doctor appointments. My wife asked how I liked driving our car again and I confess I said that I tried not to get too attached. Since that day I have been driving  my son-in-law's little red pickup truck. I confess that I never have been much of a truck person, but the ability to get myself to and from work without relying on being picked up has been nice. I almost feel like a trucker.

It's now a month away from AWP and I confess that I am getting both anxious and nervous.In preparation for the conference I purchased a tablet and I confess that  having a tablet and a smart phone together can be a bit overwhelming.

When I left work this evening I was surprised how beautiful it was out. Arriving home I was actually hot in the house. Michael gets cranky when he's hot  and tends to write in third person. I confess he actually turned on the air conditioning for a while.

See you all again for confession next Tuesday. Until then, stay safe!

Friday, March 06, 2015

Tom Brokaw Turns to Poetry During Battle With Cancer

Thomas McGuane interviews Tom Brokaw
Growing up and being especially politically oriented I watched the evening news religiously.

People of my generation will often recall Walter Cronkite and rave about his professionalism as a TV journalist. In the pre-cable news days, I believe the quality of the news reporting was far more professional. I'll certainly give Cronkite the respect he deserves as really a pioneer in TV News  but the two TV journalists that I really felt continued to exemplify professionalism were Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw.

Of course we lost Jennings some years ago at a much too early age. Tom Brokow  remains with us and he is to me a dean of TV journalism. A reporter so many Americans tuned into almost nightly. It was how we got the news back then. It wasn't entertainment, it was how people who cared about the world, enlightened themselves. It informed our view of people and events.

Brokaw was diagnosed with multiple myeloma but the good news is his cancer is in remission. If there is anything  good that can come from having cancer Brokaw may have found it. During his two years of treatment he turned to poetry as a means to cope with his illness. In a CNN article he talks about it and some of the poets who have crossed his path during this period. Some cool stories. Brokaw is set to release a book about his cancer struggles.