Back from attending AWP 2017 in D.C., and on some strict deadlines. The last day of AWP is exhausting. So many panels, readings, and run-ins with friends and colleagues. And I’m not even in graduate school yet. The good thing is, hopefully I’ll be paying the student rate next year.

There’s A Panel for That: Musings on the Third Day at AWP

The last day of the conference, a cavernous conference room. A young couple sits behind me, chatting away. A scruffy, white-whiskered dog named Pearl sleeps at the girl’s feet. Pearl wears the service dog designation across her chest, but the dog mom in me suspects the harness on the old dog is a ruse. Three days of attending panels, readings and a book fair, and I now realize that I’m sitting in the wrong room.  All the room entrances at the Marquis look alike, but I stay, since my eyes can barely stay open. This appears to be a reading that’s about to start, and I love supporting the writing community.

A writer in a too-tight T-shirt approaches the mic, and after a brief intro, he breaks into a loud, military chant.

“All hail the glorious death!”

Feeling a bit queasy, I glance back at the mutt, deep in REM sleep. Paws twitching, dreaming of squirrels. The dog owner smiles, I smile back at her. She is wicked smart, as they say in Boston. She managed to smuggle her dog not just into the Mariott, but into the entire 3 days of the conference.

Knowing that military guy-turned-published-poet can’t see me, I break open my iPad. I open an app I haven’t clicked on since I got here 2 days ago. A pack of moving dogs fill the screen. A surveillance camera catches about 10 of them playing, their loud barking safely on mute.

My black dog has white paws that look like tube socks. I’m transfixed while he runs back and forth, like a mindless cartoon character. In the left corner I see the other one, my lazy 90lb mastiff, chilling under the sun at a doggie daycare I can afford if I make my own coffee for a month. I’m delighted by this time suck in the same stupid way we make cat videos go viral, but I’m also tired of being around thousands of people. I make a final attempt to awake from the haze, from the AWP brain drain. I turn around again, but the girl and her canine are gone. Not all poetry readings can captivate a bitch’s attention.

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