I’m learning a new language. The structure of Czech is entirely different from English; meaning is contained in word order and declination, so that just by changing endings on the same root word, you can create whole new sentences. The possibilities the syntax offers for poetry-making are endless and exciting. Oh, I’m not there yet. Though my level of vocabulary and diction has allowed me to have conversations lately about what kind of lettuce seeds to plant in early spring, if there was any plain hummus left, or how long it would take the new tiles on my staircase to dry before the children could walk on them, I’ve years to go before I could attempt to write poetry.
In Czech, conventional rules of English do not apply. Take the sentence above. Co hledáme. In 9th grade English class, we could not get away with this as a title sentence. What Are We Looking FOR. Wouldn’t Mrs. Lawson have bled red ink all over that title? (Never mind that there was no such thing as a blog post in 19◼︎◼︎. Pretend it was a homework assignment, cursive on blue lined notebook paper. Man, I miss my handwriting. . .) Anyhoo, to the point. What ARE we looking for?
Tomorrow, to get to AWP in Los Angeles, I’ll be going through two international airports, first Prague then Frankfurt, looking for my gate, then looking for my seat, then looking for any conceivable way to grab some shut-eye. Then I’ll be looking for my room, my partner in all things Minerva, Kim Brown, then our booth #1735. Real soon after that, we’ll be looking for a bottle of wine! Then we’ll be looking for YOU. Your questions, your smiling faces, your nodding heads. Your reactions, your perspectives, your affiliations or hometowns on the bottoms of your badges. For the thrill and gall and sheer terror of being in LA at the world’s biggest party for me and 11,999 of my closest writer- friends. Then, I’ll be looking for connections.
At our bi-weekly Minerva Staff Meeting a few months ago, we had to make some tough choices regarding AWP. Our staff is small and only two of us are able to make it this year. We decided that the theme of AWP 2016 for these Minervas is CONNECTION. Kim and I edited our schedules like we were editing for space in a line-restricted issue. We weeded out panels that may have interested us greatly otherwise, but this year they didn’t make the cut. Our priority this year is YOU. Connections we will make with potential new writers and readers, over coffees and sandwiches on the convention center floor, over splits of champagne at with former chapbook contest winners and beers at the hotel bar with strangers who turn out to be new friends. Connections with [hopefully] potential future contest judges, with rich patrons looking to pour free money into our indie mission, with publishes who want to sign me for a four-book-deal and a rock-star cross-country book tour. Looking for the Universe to rise up and send us what we’re looking for.
And then looking for quiet. For inspiration. For an Uber and an address of a little seaside cafe where I can sit and watch the Pacific kiss the sand. Looking for seafood, preferably breaded and fried. Looking for a way to pack all the poetry volumes and chapbooks and swag and Target purchases — American granola bars and contact solution, Victoria’s Secret 5 for $25, a couple of Percy Jackson books for the 9-year old, into my suitcase. And looking for a way to get back home with all that AWP-generated energy intact.
What are YOU looking for?
Tune into our special edition of The Staff Blog next month to find out what Kim and I are both looking for when it comes to submissions for the Fathers theme. Reading period starts soon, running from April 1 to June 1.