AWP was great, you met a lot of people and hung out with yours in a different place and time, and you’re exhausted from readings, signings, panels, and talking more than you’re used to. Time to unwind into some reflective contemplation and reinvigorate your game plan. Here are a few you might consider.
1) Your Literary Citizenship. Just how useful were you over the past year? Did you assist with projects, planning events, edit, design, promote, create audience, write grants, jury fellowships or prizes or retreat residencies, serve on a board or committee, initiate a field worthy movement, compile bibliographies or reading lists, review books, intern, organize in the community, serve where you are needed most, help?
2) Your Creative Work. Did you keep the promise you vowed to dedicate time to write, revise until you finalize, ingest only that which influences the work and gives the mind & body stamina and endurance to go the full mile, learn a new language, research the unfamiliar, listen to sounds and take in sights you normally would not dare, give yourself applause when you know you are on the right track within the work, celebrate a finished piece by writing its companion, free the writer hiding inside and engage?
3) The Follow Up. Did you manage to make those open deadlines, keep a regimen of applications, prepare yourself for opportunity, gather your wits, work on long-term goals in your writing, yourself, and your future, make contact with all the people you enjoyed from the past year and discover your professional life is as much about placement as it is creative, seek new ways to support the work without losing a love for life?
Most everyone you will ever meet working in the lit field is engaged in regular contributions. There is so much to be done and so many things unnoticed, you can surely find ways to jump in and readily be a part of. Your mentors are often working on several projects at once, while devoting themselves to the field, and publishing widely, often while teaching full-time at one university and serving a field faculty for low residencies as well. Looking for a service project can bring about essential results that, once completed, people wonder why no one ever did it before, or at least why not in the past fifteen to twenty years. Dedicating yourself to your creative work is the only way to become a practicing writer, for most. Making deadlines can mean opportunity awaits and each juncture is practice for your professional development. Following through is necessary to any achievement. Finding your place in the wide field gives you a room to work within and eventually comfortability, or cause for more work to change things.
Just keep at it and we will see you at residency and at AWP and hopefully, at some point, standing in line to sign your books and celebrate your work and efforts.
For now, here are some samples of citizenship that I was happy to work with in preparation for AWP. For roughly six weeks prior, I worked on about ten bibliographies that the whole field seemed to forget to compile. As founder of an AWP caucus that transitioned to another organizer over the past year, our view of the field for AWP is concerned with the viability of that body of writers significantly. A handful of the caucus came to task, the current organizer, two most recent chairs, founding panelist, and assisting caucus audience member, assisted and enhanced the major list and some of the categories that followed, and the rest came about organically. We are done but we are only just beginning as well (there is so much to do). For now, in this note, it is my hope that all of our students (alumni, faculty, administration) take in these lists as personal reading lists and familiarize themselves with this portion of the field as they grow as writers through readings. With the VIDA count in and a lot of work ahead of us, and a personal focus on understanding matriarchal influence in the lit field, the bibliography attached lists books published by Native Women Poets in the 21st Century, thus far. Keep an eye out for Caucus posts and you will find books from the same in from the 21st Century Turn, a time of departures and much, much, more.
Now that we are done, I wonder what happened to all the critics who used to compile poetry bibliographies. I also wonder if the sense that we can’t be treated as an anthropological/ethnographic study anymore (in contemporary poetry, especially, perhaps, since the release of Sing: Poetry of the Indigenous Americas) serves as a deterrent to those who compiled in the past? Whatever the reason, poets have taken initiative, dedicated and served, followed through and now present some of the bibliographies that speak the times.
Just like we hope you do.
Allison Hedge Coke.