The Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) was back in business in March 2023 in the great city of Seattle with its yearly in-person conference, its first since San Antonio in 2020, which was itself heavily impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic. In the meantime, provision was made for a highly successful delivery of lectures and events online, but of course there is no getting around the fact that the buzz of an ACTUAL conference is simply irreplaceable. AWP is not just about talks and lectures – enlightening as they are – it is also a yearly opportunity to meet up with old friends and make new ones. And a chance to stroll around the fantastic full-floor book fair (pictured above) which continues throughout the three days of the conference.
The Salmon Poetry booth at the conference book fair is a great opportunity to meet some of Salmon’s American poets before reading with them later at events organised by the company. My own involvement this year was made even more enjoyable because of the publication of my second Salmon poetry collection ‘Material Support’ which – like everything else – has been much delayed by the pandemic. The cover is the wonderful work of freelance photographer Martin Jakubic of EirLandscape.com.
I include a poem below from the collection, ‘Longtime Companion’, which touches on one of the concerns of the book: the idea that we are surrounded by objects which are our mute assistants, helping us on our journey through life and will most likely go on to help others when we journey onwards to the Shades (see also ‘Everything Must Go’). The subject of the poem is a something which is an everyday part of our lives. I have allowed it to speak for itself and remind us of its importance. ‘Material Support’ is available for purchase on the Salmon website at My books at Salmon Poetry and at bookshops shortly.
Longtime Companion Beside the microwave and Kenwood Chef and toaster -- me. There was a time you cupped your hands to drink fresh water from a stream, then had the sudden thought to shape me. Later still to round me on the wheel and decorate me, bake me, sometimes accidentally break me in your earth-floored Neolithic kitchen. And it wasn't long before you learned to bend me out of metal, came to place me gently with the shrouds of those who journeyed to the Shades. These dials and switches now, these interactive screens and temperature controls are very welcome, but -- always standing nearby full or empty, me: wooden, clay or metal, porcelain or plastic, ever I remain, Your humble servant (First published on 'Live Encounters' website)
Several other spring titles were launched from Salmon poets Lex Runciman, Paulann Peterson, Patricia Brody, Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Eamonn Wall, Mary Buchinger, Alice Pettaway, John Morgan, David Rigsbee and Susan Rich. So far I have read Lex and Eamonn’s collections and , even so, I know I will have to re-read them to get beyond a superficial glimpse of their worth. So I have a good deal of reading ahead of me!
The Salmon presence owes much to the volunteers who undertake the mounting and organisation of the booth at the book fair. Mention must be made of Stephen Powers and Sandra Yannone (both of them ‘Salmon’ poets), and of course Jessie Lendennie, founder and director of Salmon and doyenne of the Irish poetry scene, who travelled again from the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland to meet and greet her American poets and any of her Irish ones who happened to be present. Readings were arranged at the Mayflower Hotel and at the Grand Sheraton.
With Jessie Lendennie
… and Lex Runciman
A word about Seattle itself. It is one of those BIG BIG American cities but with a great transport system that allows one to get around easily, so it really does not feel so big at all. And cheap too. Travel from the airport to the city centre is a long haul but costs only about $3.00. The same ticket (card) does for all other modes its public transport. A stroll around the city’s edges will bring you to many little parks and open spaces
and maybe and unexpectedly to a farmers’ market with the most delicious of edibles on show. Some ‘old’ buildings stubbornly hold their place among the chrome and glass cathedrals. ‘Old’ is in inverts because we are too-accustomed to think that not much in America is ‘old’ by European standards. That is of course completely untrue, given the thousands of years that indigenous peoples inhabited the area, but theirs is another story best told elsewhere.
Some of my earliest reading in poetry began with the work of Robert Service and his engrossing narratives set in the gold-rush days of the Yukon (‘There are strange things done in the midnight sun / By the men who moil for gold…’) and Seattle’s more recent history really begins with discovery of the precious metal in 1896 near the Klondike River in Canada’s Yukon Territory. The small town was strategically placed on the route that prospectors would take on their way to the the fabled goldfields and so it became the place to buy the equipment and provisions necessary for the long journey ahead. Cue: boom times! It is said that the merchants and traders of Seattle made much more of a fortune than did most of the prospectors.
If you find yourself in town no doubt you will want to visit the famous landmarks such as the Space Needle and to wander around the fabulous Pine Market. But don’t forget to call into the Klondike Gold Rush Museum at 319 2nd Ave S. There you will find photographs and artefacts testifying to that torrid time when prospectors came from all over America and elsewhere to seek their fortune. The personal histories of many of those people are detailed in well-mounted displays.
See y’all next year in Kansas City for AWP ’24!