Monday, April 12, 2010

WVU at AWP, or Aren't our students interesting and accomplished?

Who knew our former students were doing such exciting things in such far-flung places? Yours truly is just back from the monstrosity that is known as the AWP conference in altitude sickness-inducing Denver (yes, really, unfortunately) and I bring with me Exciting Alumni News! But, first, what does AWP stand for, I know you want to know. I’ll tell you. It’s the mildly perplexing acronym for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Yes, that’s two w’s, not one. Alas, it wasn’t always this way; writers were an afterthought. I know! Anyway, long story short, it was and is and always will be AWP and the conference is very big and very overwhelming and I for one needed a cookie and a nap every afternoon just to get through it.

But, and here’s the first exciting part, I saw Tim and Gail Adams! (see kind of terrible photo... we were surrounded by drunk Colorado Rockies fans... can you tell?) And can you believe they boarded the very same shuttle bus from the airport that I was already on?! Talk about coincidence. We had, of course, the most delightful conversation and, finally, got the driver to turn on the a/c and the ride was only somewhat alarming, as those rides always are, and then the conference really began.

In the former MFA student category… I can report actual conversations with Maggie Glover, who looked darling as always and was in attendance on behalf of Mod Cloth (a super cool thing you’ll just need look up for yourself); Katie Fallon, who, truth be told, was hanging with some Virginia Tech people, but she's recently returned to Morgantown and we love her and so we forgive her; and Matt Hass, now gainfully employed at some school in Oregon the name of which I can’t seem to remember. Matt, it should be noted, grew a mustache just for me (he claimed) and looked less like his former Abercrombie model self and more like some guy from the Urban Outfitters catalogue. So, like, different, but still good. I also saw from a distance but did not get a chance to chat with Matt Vandermeulen and James Engelhardt.

In the former undergrad student category… I’m pleased to have seen the ever-effervescent Whitney Holmes, recently graduated from the MFA program at Alabama and now living in Chicago, and Bobby Jagger, now happily in the second year of his MFA at UNLV.

I certainly hope I’m not forgetting anyone.

And in the wow-those-were-the-days category… I met one-time WVU faculty member Marcia Aldrich. I’m sure some of you (older, ahem, than this blogger) remember Marcia. I heard many fascinating tales of yesteryear from my three senior colleagues, and, by all accounts, it sounds like things are a bit tamer nowadays…

And now, so you can really feel like you were there, a poem from Jean Valentine, one of our very finest poets, who was the somewhat shy subject of a lovely series of tributes. This poem, one of her best known, was quoted repeatedly. I think you’ll see why… and why the conference, for all its silliness, is worth going to. Sometimes, at least. As when a real poet like Jean Valentine shows up. And one’s former students, all shiny and successful, are there, too.

The Pen

The sandy road, the bright green two-inch lizard

little light on the road

the pen that writes by itself

the mist that blows by, through itself

the gourd I drink from in my sleep

that also drinks from me

—Who taught me to know instead of not to know?

And this pen its thought

lying on the thought of the table

a bow lying across the strings

not moving


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