01 April 2013

On In Houston

I'd dislocated my life, so I went to the zoo.

Four weeks ago I traveled to Boston for the annual AWP Conference. (Association for Writers and Writing Programs--don't ask me why it's not AWWP, I don't know the official answer. But it would be a stupid acronym.) It is a conference that I would be genuinely interested in each year, but was compounded by the fact that it was being held in Boston. Though I never admitted it to anyone (except maybe once to Mc?), part of my desire to go was a hope that my decision to move away would be validated by a return. I would see the city I love and the people I love and say, "Yes, I love them, but I don't belong here anymore."

I missed / the bitter tinny Boston smell of first snow, / the huddling in a cold bus tunnel.

My first twenty-four hours back in the city, I literally could not stop grinning like an idiot. I grinned when C picked me up, when I saw the skyline, when I walked into Quincy Market blocks from my old office. I grinned watching my BBQ chicken mac&cheese lunch cooked in front of me, I grinned on the T (the Green line, even), I grinned in the rain/snow down Boylston through Copley Square. I grinned walking into Clarke's. I grinned up the stairs of the Nottinghill House. I felt lighter, I was happy.

no bird can get its song sung right, separated from / models of its own species. 

Even with a red eye and a three-hour time difference, ten hours at AWP left me invigorated rather than exhausted. I went to panels on Boston's literary history, contemporary American writing, technology and the ebook's influence on publishing. I heard Tony Hoagland and Dobby Gibson and Matthew Pearl. I took pictures of old classmates running a panel, thinking, "They are presenting at a national conference and I went to school with them." I walked through a book fair filled with hundreds of books and lit mags and opportunities. I felt a spark rekindle.

I couldn’t relate to a giraffe— / I couldn’t look one in the face.

During Tony Hoagland's panel I heard a darling poet tell the story of how she began to write. Through what she called good fortune, she was accepted to an MFA program (the only one to which she applied). As she went to class each week and sat around a conference table to workshop she said, "For the first time in my life I was surrounded by souls that spoke to mine."

How did we get here, dear sloth, my soul, my sister?

When I graduated eleven months ago, I was tired. I had drained myself physically and mentally and emotionally; I needed a change. I thought that a new location could help this new phase of my life sans school. But when I left Boston I also left an integral piece of me. The piece that sees tiny details of design and admires a well-constructed sentence. The piece that has been with me most of my life, since my dad banned reading in the bathroom, but took me so long to find academically. These eleven months without it have been long, and sometimes dark. But for the first time in nearly a year I was all of me. Surrounded by souls that spoke to mine.

I choose to be all of me again.

April is National Poetry Month, and I connected more strongly with Gail Mazur's reading of "In Houston" at AWP than any other poem I have heard to date.


  1. that is really funny about your Dad banning reading in the bathroom. My family never read in the bathroom growing up, but Mitch's did. When Mitch would do it after we got married I was stunned. People actually do that? I love reading--but in the bathroom??
    Anyway, I really enjoyed this post. Very beautiful and I can tell that Boston truly is a part of you.

  2. Back to Boston then?

  3. LOVED THIS. The integrated poem. I related to this whole story. It spoke to me. Someone told me once that I need to stop moving around and be happy with where I am at. "The grass is always greener." But, really, it's hard to be 100% in a place that doesn't help you be 100%. Especially when you're an artist. I get that. Did I mention that I LOVED THIS??

  4. Oh, Allison, I feel your pain. These last 8 months away from Boston have been so hard. When I went back to visit in November I did some of those same things. I SMILED ON THE T AS WELL! There is something so transcendent about Boston, something that gets into the very depths of ones soul. It's the intellectual atmosphere, the pride of the locals (working in Southie helped me see that first hand), and the bonds of friendship that were created there. I don't know if you are thinking of going back, but I sure wish I could. But, we must remember that it is not the same Boston we left behind. The people are different, the city is different, we are different. Keeping that perspective allows one to see the forest for the trees and recognize what we are missing. *sigh* I don't know... I wish you luck in whatever you choose to do. May it be the right decision for you.