By Maria Padhila
I am sooooo jealous. Not of any of my lovers. No, they can skip off and have whatever fun they like, and I will smile and compersionize away, curled up with a book while they’re swinging from the chandelier with someone new. I’m jealous of “writer friends,” as they’re termed in an essay that crossed my path the other day: “How Not to Hate Your Friends,” by Courtney Maum in the Tin House literary magazine blog.
The article is about the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference, which is sort of the SXSW for poets and literary writers. Yeah, I know — how much more obscure can you get? But for those of us who are into this kind of thing, it’s the most happening scene of the year. I was lucky a few years back when it was in DC, and there were plenty of free readings at bars and galleries around the city, so I got to be in on it without having to pay a lot of money or actually publish or be known.
But as much as I love the OPP (Other People’s Poetry), it would still be nice not to have gotten the rejection email that came in just today, for instance. Will anyone ever like my poems? Do I suck? Am I wasting my time? Am I a fool? At poetry gatherings, the combination of self-consciousness, introvert pain, social awkwardness, disappointed expectations, and comparing (and let’s add some alcohol!) can turn toxic fast. It’s just a little bit worse than some polyamory potlucks.
When I did a search on “AWP jealousy,” I was truly shocked at how many blog entries there were out there that made just this reference. It is really tough when you know damn well you’re not too likely to have anyone recognize that the value of what to you is like breathing. I’m always happy to see people share poems and music (and even photos and paintings) in the Planet Waves comments for this reason. If we don’t throw it out there to the world somehow, it dies.
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