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poet party

At the Poet Party tonight, we discussed attention.

I thank Karen Maezen Miller for the inspiration behind this idea. “Attention” seems to be disappearing at an alarming rate. Have you been asked to “multitask” lately? The brain can’t pay attention to multiple things. It may seem you are—that your brain is—yet it isn’t. We all suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, and I do not mean the kind of you read about in the papers. We’re suffering from a deficit of attention directed at us, at our work, at our writing, at whatever we care about.

In case you were not able to join us at the Poet Party tonight on Twitter— or even if you were and like to read the transcript—here’s what we discussed tonight.

The Poet Party, by the way, takes place on Twitter. Use the hashtag #poetparty to follow the conversation at 9 pm ET on Sundays. Collin Kelley is my fellow host.

Once the introductions were completed and the Great Poetry Giveaway Winners Announced, I asked what people paid attention to today. Sundays always seem so good for paying attention.

QUESTION 1: What did you pay attention to today?

People paid attention to a dead snake, the wind, a boyfriend, Celebrity Apprentice, roller skating, a weeping willow tree, and Salt Hill Magazine to name a few. Here’s what else people gave their attention to today:

A1.2 I also paid attention to the new issue of Salt Hill: #poetparty
Tina Nguyen
A1 #poetparty I paid attention to my daughter’s fever rising and falling today. And the poetry I heard as we napped together.
Julie Carter
A1:I paid attention to nature upon seeing a dead snake. Also, I heard a lot of people giving compliments today.All great material! #poetparty
Collin Kelley
A1.5 Sadly, I’m having to pay attention to Celebrity Apprentice to recap for the magazine I edit. Sigh. #poetparty
ek_anderson E. Kristin Anderson
A1 I paid attention to the boyfriend, Law & Order reruns, and small press submissions. #poetparty
A1: Jellyfish, #leverage & a sestina. Two of those are related. #poetparty
1 hour ago
I paid attention to the strength of the wind today as I walked around my church. I had a rolled-out-of-bed look! #poetparty
1 hour ago
A1 – Art over at VASA my daughter was entered in the middle school category. Cyndy Carstens was guest speaker. #poetparty
1 hour ago
brooke_farmer @32poems A1 Small victories #poetparty
A1. I paid attention to the corrections and rewrites on my second novel. #poetparty
A1 The 5 poems I’m submitting to @robertleebrewer for the #aprpad. Sharpening up the month’s worth of poetry, too. #poetparty
A1: I paid attention to the tightness in my chest from stress, and then to the Book Club chat with Dean Young I moderated #poetparty
spiderdreamz Victor Perrotti
the inside of the VA Beach Lighthouse #poetpart
Eric Weinstein
Game of Thrones; a new poem I’m working on; Call of Duty: Black Ops; the weather; the temperature in my apartment; and #poetparty.
1 hour ago

Throughout the conversation, people shared their views of attention and how it played into their poetry.

Attention can be affected by mood:

Mr. Enlightenment
kilowattpoet Mr. Enlightenment
your mood will dictate your poetry even when you dont want it to #poetparty
1 hour ago

Attention is editing:

E. Kristin Anderson
ek_anderson E. Kristin Anderson
Attention is editing, y’all. Paying attention to the first draft. Paying attention to word choice and line breaks. #poetparty

Attention can be reflection:

@AMYCHAMP Yes! We’re living in a world where things move too fast. Attention is a way for us to stop & reflect. #poetparty

Attention can be love:

QUESTION 3: Someone said “attention is love.” What are your questions about attention and poetry? #poetparty

attention is the foundation of solid spiritual practice, and so it goes with writing. there are levels of attention… yes? #poetparty

Attention can take the form of professional eavesdropping:

@hosking I think of myself as a professional eavesdropper for this very reason. #poetparty

I have the same experience as Mr. Enlightenment:

Mr. Enlightenment
most of my ideas come when poetry is not my main point of attention #poetparty
A2: Attention plays into my work by coming up in odd ways…I can’t control what happens. #poetparty

Attention must happen to get beyond accuracy to the TRUTH.

Brian Spears
A2 Cont# I have to pay attention if I’m going to get beyond accuracy to truth. #poetparty

Brook Farmer wrote that the answer to paying attention in poetry is self evident. I agree and think that it can still be hard to get the point of attention in the first place. Many failed poems failed due to lack of attention.

@32poems A2 I feel like the answer is self evident almost. Can’t effectively write about something you aren’t paying attention to #poetparty

Attention affects writing:

A2paying attention to conversations can create some great jumping points for writing. You never know where great material will be #poetparty
Collin Kelley
A2. Listening to music I enjoy while I’m writing and editing makes me more relaxed and helps me focus my attention. #poetparty
A2 #poetparty If I don’t pay attention, there’s no poetry. Paying attention is the foundation.
A2: I try to attend to two things at once in my poems. I like the complexity it offers (in terms of emotions, images, &c). #poetparty

Richard points out how April poetry prompts helped him focus. I think the challenge of writing a poem a day encourages us to think more about what we’ll write next. Then, we start to see the world in a way that helps us make the human experience visible in words.

rmfenwick Richard Fenwick
A2 – Surprised: the poetry prompts for April really focused my attention extremely well. I was surprised. #poetparty

We thank @thethepoetry for the link to Donald Revell’s essay, “The Art of Attention.”

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This is my first time taking notes on a Twitter chat. As you may know, the “stream” of messages moves quickly on Twitter. How does one best encapsulate a Twitter chat? Tonight, I decided to take notes with the goal of providing an overall sense of what we discussed. I’ve included actual Tweets from participants and summarized suggestions into lists that should be easy to read. I used to paste the entire transcript into a blog post, yet that was a challenge to read.

Deborah Ager and Collin Kelley host the Poet Party, which was founded by Deborah in October. Tonight, host Collin Kelley got the ball rolling despite turning in his latest novel today.

At the Poet Party—which takes place every Sunday night at 9 pm ET on Twitter—we discussed the merits & opportunities of literary festivals and conferences. Are they worth the time and money? Which ones should a poet attend?

Poets from Virginia, Georgia, Oklahoma, Michigan, Washington state, North Carolina, Minnesota, Maryland, Arizona, and Canada joined in the chat.

Regarding the popular AWP (Associated Writing Programs) Conference, Deborah at 32 Poems suggested a mix of planned events (dinners with friends and readings, for instance) and spontaneous activities. Laurel Snyder agreed and added, “Important to take deep breaths at AWP, get in some real content. Important to sleep, see friends…”

Each week, we ask a few questions to encourage conversation. This week, Collin asked:

Question 1: What literary conferences/festivals have you attended? What was your favorite?

@webbish6: Favorite poetry festival = Skagit Valley Poetry Festival Favorite Poetry Conference so far = Port Townsend Writer’s Conference

@katrinavanden: I loved Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. High-quality teaching, small, unpretentious, great food, evening readings at vineyards.

@randalljweiss: You might find the rate of alcoholism, mood disorders, and introversion per sq ft @ AWP impressive!

@collinkelley: Austin Poetry Festival can be fun. I went three years in a row. Complete poetry immersion.

Additional Suggestions (many from @laurelsnyder) Included:

AWP Conference

Decatur Book Festival

Sewanee Writers’ Conference

Dodge Poetry Festival

Skagit Valley Festival

League of Poets festival/conf in June in Toronto


CityLit Fest in Baltimore

Brooklyn Book Fest

Meacham Conference in TN


BookExpo America



Kindling Words


Iowa City Fest


Tuscon Festival of Books

From @collinkelley: A big list of conferences and festivals.

Q2 If you’ve been to a fest/conf – what was missing? What do you want more of? If you haven’t – what do you want?

@asininepoetry: I’d like more free wine at conferences. Also, more smaller, low-key readings rather than big ones.

@32poems: Another thing missing: a How To Do This Conference Guide. Seriously.

Outings: For instance, environmental conferences offer hiking or kayaking

Permission for Down Time: It’d be nice to have a time when nothing is going on.

At next week’s Poet Party, we’ll discuss National Poetry Month. If you are on Twitter and want to join the discussion, please follow the conversation on Sundays at 9 pm ET by using the hashtag #poetparty.

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November 1, 2010 12:35 am 32poems: #Poetparty starts in 25 minutes. Hope to see you there. cc @robertleebrewer 12:54 am 32poems: See you at #poetparty tonight 9 pm ET? @stephkarto @poetic_line @mrsmetaphor @evelynnalfred @theamericanpoet @eireannoir #poettalk 12:57 am ClickWisdom: RT @32poems: See you at #poetparty tonight 9 pm ET? #poettalk 12:59 am 32poems: Are you […]