Sunday, February 22, 2009

Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference Bookfair

There they all are, the hungry hordes, famished for books! Me, too.

The AWP Conference was held in Chicago this year, and the Bookfair was open to the public on Saturday, the last day. I had been advised by a fellow Bookcrosser, who works for AWP, that there would be serious discounts, not to mention a lot of freebies, as exhibitors tried to avoid having to take piles of books and journals back home. How could any self-respecting book lover pass up such an opportunity?

My original plan had been to go to the Bookfair for an hour or so, and then cross the street to Chicago's Snow Days Festival. In the event, I spent over three hours at the fair, and decided to go straight home with my haul. And quite a haul it was. Fortunately, one of the many items thrown my way was a tote bag, which I needed because the one I had brought was nowhere near big enough for all the goodies.

This thing was HUGE!! On the lower level of the Chicago Hilton, I went to the southeast exhibit hall, then the southwest exhibit hall, emerging only to find that there were northeast and northwest exhibit halls as well, all filled with exhibitors anxious to send me home with their goods.

Quite a number of the exhibitors were literary journals, and I was frequently asked if I was a poet or writer, but had to disappoint the folks by saying, "No, I'm a reader!" This did not prevent them from offering me copies of their journals. I tried to restrain myself, and took only one (or at most two) of each that looked interesting. My take ran the gamut from the Victorian Periodicals Review to the University of New Orleans' Bayou Magazine. I also acquired issues of Bookforum and other book reviews, just to make sure that I don't run out of ideas for books to read.

Many poetry broadsides, large and small were being given away, and exhibitors lured us to their tables with temporary tattoos, refrigerator magnets and, at nearly every table, chocolate!

As to books themselves, it's a long list, bought or given. I'm particularly delighted with a few small books. From the Tampa Book Arts Studio of the University of Tampa Press, I purchased Walter Klinefelter's essay, Christmas Books, with a small, tipped-in letterpress image. A curious alphabet book, An Awkward Alphabet, by Nils Ya, from Slack Buddha Press and a Literary House Press edition of Browsing, by John Barth, with linoleum cuts by Mary Rhinelander are a couple of other goodies. A lesson in not throwing away family papers is Ida In Her Own Words: The timeless writings of Ida B. Wells from 1893, edited by her great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster, who discovered original copies of some of Wells' work in family boxes. There were books of poetry, and one about a poet, John Stubbs' John Donne: The Reformed Soul, an anthology of works by Yiddish women writers, Arguing with the Storm, and one of post-Katrina stories and essays, Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?, and many more.

I've got a lot of reading to do!

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