AWP Part II: Huge Spaces, Good Stuff When You Look For It

By Michael Sedano

From: Labloga


Michael Kearns, Conney Williams, Jessica CeballosAWP 2016 launched in a storm of controversy. Writers from the disability caucus protested their exclusion from the program. Writers from raza caucuses felt the sting of rejected panels and raised their voices in unison. Then a Los Angeles publisher, poet Kate Gale, wrote a Dick Cheney-like screed telling the protestors to get over it. A chastened Gale subsequently deleted the post.

That not only failed to bring the dissident writers to heel, Gale’s “I’ve got mine” attitude fanned the flames. One writer, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo found publisher Gale’s screed offensive beyond tolerance  such that Bermejo withdrew her book–her first publication–from Gale’s Red Hen Press. The courageous Bermejo has a new publisher, release in the Fall. La Bloga’s Michael Sedano has offered to host the launch in a backyard floricanto for the principled poet.

Rigoberto Gonzalez spoke to the issue, noting that AWP provides notable benefits to balance out the organization’s ethnic and cultural myopia. Still, in the hundreds of panels spread across multiple sites, the absence of diversity was striking.

Finding MOS panels at AWP was a cinch. Throw a rock in any direction and find a roomful of them, often with a gender balance. That’s not entirely accurate. The gender balance, yes. The full room, no. The Los Angeles Convention Center was a vast space in search of an audience. Star-studded panels, like one featuring Héctor Tobar reading from his engrossing nonfiction account of trapped Chilean miners, Deep Down Dark, felt like the empty central chamber Tobar describes.

It wasn’t all that difficult finding non-dominant cultura panels, however. At least one such event, featuring Elizabeth Alexander, spoke in a mid-size auditorium three-quarters full. A diverse audience attended, preponderantly people of color. Another diversely attended panel Creating Literary Community in a City of Freeways featured host Terry Wolverton,  joined by Jessica Ceballos,  Traci Kato-Kiriyama ,  Michael Kearns,  Conney Williams. Read Rest of Article Here


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