Gandy Dancer Goes to AWP

Posted by Joshua DeJoy, CNF Co-Editor for 5.2

Several current and former Gandy Dancers attended the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP)Conference in Washington, DC, February 8-11. The conference was a rewarding experience for all Geneseo attendees, including myself, Managing Editors Evan Goldstein and Oliver Diaz, Poetry Editor Kallie Swyer, former Poetry Editor Robbie Held, former CNF reader Isabel Owen and friend of Gandy Dancer Elizabeth Pellegrino.

The AWP conference has two main components: dozens of panels by writers, editors, and translators and an absolutely massive book fair. Even the most diligent and caffeinated attendee can only experience a small fraction of what the conference has to offer. For example, I attended a couple of panels and then spent the rest of the time at the book fair, going systematically past hundreds of tables and booths and seeing what they had to offer.

The panels ranged from discussions on editing, how to discuss different subjects, techniques in different genres, and more. I heard editors from several different journals talk about breaking into the editing field, as well as a fascinating panel regarding writing about Appalachia and the working class.

At the book fair, I encountered dozens of journals, subscribed to the Atlanta Review, bought some short stories from Melville House, and stopped by the National Endowment for the Arts booth to see what they do to support the arts, something relevant with the Trump administration proposing to eliminate NEA funding.

Managing Editor Evan Goldstein had this to say about AWP: “It is amazing to get to go to AWP, it’s something I wish every interested student could do. It’s astounding to see how many writers and readers and presses and journals there are—there’s not only a massive amount of academic opportunities but a lot of opportunities in the writing world outside of academia as well. That being said, it was rather difficult to find panels that didn’t center on identity politics and it did at times feel like a siphon for people interested in writing to continue on into academia. There’s still enough there that you can find what you’re interested in. The best panel I went to was on documentary poetry and it focused a lot on how to best mix journalistic ethics and impulses to document reality with the aesthetics and opportunity that poetry does provide.”

Overall, I’m glad that so many Geneseo students got a chance to go to AWP, and I hope Geneseo makes it a tradition to have strong representation at future AWP conferences. With the Trump administration in office now for three months and showing no signs of slowing down, writers and other artists must play an important role in the coming period.

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