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Wick Poetry Center News

Wick Intern Reflects on AWP Experience in Chicago

Posted Mar. 13, 2012

By Casey Nichols, Wick Poetry Center Intern

As the newest intern with the Wick Poetry Center, I quickly realized just how much preparation and excitement is produced in the time leading up to the annual AWP conference. This year, the book fair and conference was held in Chicago and was host to nearly 11,000 attendees. My expectations were dwarfed by the humming hive of writers, publishers, academics and other guests who filled the rooms with their appreciation for art and the craft of writing. I couldn't have been happier to represent the Wick Poetry Center and share its mission with others.

Wick's book fair booth was a splash of color and liveliness among the rows of exhibits; posters, chapbooks, first books and greeting cards piqued the interest of many passersby. Our Traveling Stanzas comprised an expansive and enticing greeting card "buffet". Visitors were delighted to see the poignant and encouraging Peace Stanza and Healing Stanza poems of student writers, veterans, health care providers and patients in greeting card form. Many walked away with handfuls of cards, and people were also able to send e-greetings that contained an animation of their favorite Traveling Stanza poem.

Not only does Wick recognize the immediate necessity to promote community involvement through the art of writing, they also nurture a wider collection of voices through the Wick Chapbook Competition for Ohio Poets and the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize. First Book winner Mira Rosenthal was present to sign and talk about her new collection, The Local World. It was a pleasure to attend the signing and to see Mira's readers as engrossed in her poetry as I have been. 2010 chapbook winners Lisa Ampleman and Heather Kirn also stopped by to sign their chapbooks, I've Been Collecting This to Tell You and The Story You Tell Yourself.

Thursday morning, David Hassler, director of the Wick Poetry Center, lent his talent and insight to the panel "Starting a Young Writers' Conference," in which he shared what it's like to help introduce poetry and writing into a community and foster its place among adolescents. Later, with the panel, "What You Need to Know before You Stand and Deliver," he discussed what makes a poet a great teaching artist. David's passion for showcasing new voices was especially evident when book fair goers found themselves performing impromptu readings with him at the Wick booth, after which they walked away with a smile and a story to take home.

In addition to the book fair, I ventured to panels and especially enjoyed discussions by Bei Dao and Gerald Stern. Pulitzer Prize winner Yusef Komenyakaa also gave a brilliant reading, and created a buzz of excitement among the Wick staff for his upcoming visit to Kent State March 29.

The events at AWP were not just reserved for the convention center; there were many off-site readings and receptions that took advantage of Chicago's rich literary and architectural history. Friday night, Wick intern Ellie Shorey gave a reading from her instant chapbook, The Body Never Forgets, at the Green Door Tavern. Recently published by Binge Press, Ellie's first chapbook includes themes of love and loss and expands on what it's like to live as a woman in relation to the natural delights of the world. Watching Ellie perform her work on the antique basement stage was an intimate and engaging experience for me. It was inspiring to witness a friend and colleague share her work at the start of her budding career as a poet.

The Wick Poetry Center's presence this year at AWP has instilled in me a definite consciousness of the magic happening between the lines, among the chalk dust and pencil shavings, and within the tireless work the entire Wick staff and volunteers enact year round. The Wick message is clear: whether you're a third grade student, a veteran or a poet sharing her first chapbook, Wick hears the rhythm and power in the poetic voice.