Sunday, July 11, 2010

That AWP Panel on Sex

Reading the Laux poem on Writer's Almanac today, I was reminded me of the sex panel she was on at AWP. It was an amazing panel really. I could not even begin to do it justice here. Before I went to it, I thought, this will be a waste of my time. Do I really need to endure another AWP panel on eroticism? Am I really going to believe the claim that writers of the erotic in this day and age are censored?

I was surprised to find that this panel was excellent, and I think it did go past the comfort zones of many in the audience (it seemed so in my part of the room). The authors were all extremely prepared, explicit, surprising, and varied.

The real surprise to me was Laux who stood up and said, among other things, I'm waiting for the poets who will write about sex after 65, sex after the vaginal walls have thinned, sex after the penis no longer rises and rises. (I am not quoting her here, though I am trying my best to reconstruct her words. A few variations of her commentary were run by me at the bar later that night, and I have them mixed in with what she already said. You can see the opportunity for humor here, no doubt.) Laux commented on how she and her husband are quite content now to have sexless nights. (Did she call them sexless nights? Probably not. Yes, I think that was part of the bar talk, too . . . Let me talk about my sexless nights on this panel . . . ) It's just part of what we all have to look forward to, she said. I think she said . . .

I did hear a few people say that Laux was the most disappointing speaker there.

She reminded me of a yoga teacher who told me once that in my twenties and thirties, I was in the age of the body. I should do more postures. Perfect the art of the body. In my forties and fifties, I would be in the age of the mind. I should contemplate more. Be a philosopher. Sharpen and focus my mind. In my last years, I should meditate. I should enter the age of the soul. Learn to be still, find peace. Not keep asking for more. Always more.

Yes, to have no greed. That was the goal of the aging yogi.

Somehow the message of peaceful evenings felt at odds with the energy of AWP.


Sara said...

That was my favorite AWP panel ever! Things were pretty uncomfortable in my part of the room, too.

I met Jan Beatty a couple of years ago and she told me to "write the scary poems." I had a totally different understanding of what that meant before and after that panel.

Lyle Daggett said...

I was also in the room for that panel. (One of the panelists, poet Sharon Doubiago, is a long-time friend -- I went to the panel specifically because Sharon was a panelist.) "Sex in the morning," someone on the panel kept calling it.

I remember the comment Dorianne Laux made, about waiting for the poets who will write about sex after 65 etc., I don't recall her exact words but I remember her saying about that.

The panel, as I remember it, was really pretty much a short reading of their work by each of the panelists, and kept a slightly rowdy edge through most of the event. Laux was (by comparison with the other three panelists) maybe the most subdued in her reading, though I wouldn't call her "disappointing."

I found the panel energizing and invigorating, ranging in tone from intimate to hilarious.

And, although I'm at a loss for specific examples right at the moment (the thing that often happens when one tries to think of an example), I have no doubt that writers of the erotic still encounter censorship in this day and age. Not in all places or at all times, but it definitely still happens.