I’m still punch-drunk with fatigue after my six-day trip to the States to launch my collection, Don’t Ask. [flashes up my subliminal Please Buy My Book frame here]
The AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference is, I’m told, the biggest literary conference in the US. It happens every year in a different city, and this year it was in Washington with over 12,600 attendees, 800 exhibitors and 550 events. Timing wasn’t great, with Trump’s travel ban being fought over in the courts. There were many protests throughout the week. Writers were speaking, marching and organising against this hideous political climate: it was heartening to see a huge commitment to fight. [I take it as a personal insult that while sightseeing in both Washington and New York I found myself walking past the gaudy carbuncles that are Trump buildings. There should be warning signs so you can make a detour.]
I spent most of my week in the Eyewear booth – one of hundreds in the huge exhibition hall – along with publishers and small presses from all around the world. Todd Swift, Eyewear’s founder, had decided to boycott travel to the US in protest of Trump’s ban, and unfortunately another editor could not come at the last minute, so several Eyewear poets volunteered to run the stand as a team. Kelly Davio, my lovely editor who worked with me on Don’t Ask, left Eyewear a short while ago but was staffing the adjacent booth with her Tahoma Literary Review colleagues: it was great to see her.
On Thursday evening we read from our newly published works at a launch reception. John Freeman (who publishes as Cal Freeman) kindly offered to host the event, and I was honoured to read with an array of fantastic poets including Rebecca Gayle Howell, Mariela Griffor, Hassan Melehy and Terese Svoboda, among others.
I couldn’t pass up the chance to visit New York for the first time, so I nipped north on the train for a whistle-stop tour. Less than 24 hours is not enough, but I walked miles in my trusty boots.
My NY hotel, I discovered to my delight, was a kind of new age health spa in disguise: they encouraged me to do a full yoga-inspired workout in my room and change the mood lighting depending if I wanted to ‘relax’ or ‘energize’. In the end I found I wanted to ‘sleep’, so turned the light off completely.
While I was walking through Penn Station in New York, a huge man crossed my path. He glanced at me, boomed ‘Hi there lady – you’re looking beautiful! Welcome to New York!’ and carried on his way. You don’t get that kind of hello at Waterloo.