Impressions from AWP Conference

Thursday, February 3, 2011

TriQuarterly Online contributor Brittany Perham and Peter Kline, a Northwestern graduate, stopped by the table to talk about our recent issue.      

My morning began in a steamy florist shop near DuPont Circle among lilies and waist-high vases of drooping greenery. We needed something attractive for the TriQuarterly Online table. So I asked for the tall purple orchid. An explanatory woman tied the orchid stem to a stick of curly willow, and the men who make the flower deliveries congregated around us on both sides of the counter. 

The "What Women DON'T Write About When We Write About Sex" panel in the afternoon was in the Palladian Room of the Omni Shoreham hotel, a place where Sinatra sang that still, even on a cold day in February, lifts itself from the street with unrevealing grandeur.

Mary Anne Mohanraj was still snowbound in Chicago when Victoria Redel talked about the interruptive mind, the interruptive body and the integrated self saying, “People are afraid of writing about sex, because they are worried about it becoming flowery or graphic.” It seemed her point was that a woman can become segmented from her sexuality and self.  

Xu Xi achieved humor when addressing incest, talking about the commonplace horror of home that arose as a result of overcrowding in 1960’s Hong Kong. The sex in her books is not comforting, natural, procreative, or loving, but is instead uncomfortable, awkward. She said it is, “love perverted when life itself is unnatural.”

I was moved to tears by Sue Silverman, author of Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You. She talked about the artistic tension created when a writer is confronting problematic aspects of sexual relations and presents that work to a public expecting prurience.

When Ellen Bass said, “I like to think of my poems as small ambassadors to erotic joy,” I thought of the purple orchid from the morning, of those men delivering years of flowers.