Dear Emily Post-Avant,

I am in the MFA program at the University of Wisconsin, and I have an urgent question, which is actually a question I am posing on behalf of six or seven of my fellow students here in Madison. It is an urgent question because we have to decide in the next few days, lest we have to eat half our plane tickets.

My question is, do you think it is worth it for us to attend a massive gathering like the AWP when the Coronavirus is in full swing and no one really knows what the hell is going on. I know that might sound like a silly question, because the most obvious answer is, Well, so why can’t you just decide on your own, aren’t you all young adults, after all?

The thing is, all of us are presenting at the conference or have job interviews there (de facto ones, unofficial, but real), or we are doing both, and we do follow you and value your advice, quirky as it sometimes is. Plus, we know you live in the State of Washington, where all the Coronavirus deaths have taken place in the U.S. so far, and we thought you might have a special perspective on our “poetic” nervousness.

Thank you, for any advice you can offer.

[Nota bene: And if you do get Coronavirus, good riddance, you filthy bitch, we actually hate you and hope you die drowning in your own spit, you psoriatic loser. And you thought we were writing you a serious letter! Bye bye, you pseudo harlot, we know who you are. F you.]

–Your Fans at the University of Wisconsin


Dear Your Fans at the University of Wisconsin,

I got your letter over two weeks ago, but am only getting to it now, because I was in the hospital, in Seattle, with Coronavirus, in fact. I am now better, a mild case, no biggie, but am in quarantine, at home, presently. Thanks for the eloquent good wishes at the end of your letter. You guys sure can write.

I see that the AWP gets underway today, with 75% of the Quiet Space Meditations and Yoga Classes today now cancelled. Most of the workshops starting tomorrow are cancelled, too, it appears. And the next two days, as well. I am going to urge the Dispatches editors to link to the official program of events. The AWP Workshop titles are maybe the funniest string of unintentional howlers in the U.S. Culture Industry. In fact, forget Fric & Frac, who are late on my last three paychecks, I am just going to give the link here. Read it, laugh, and weep:

Who will be there, under the increasingly panicked circumstances, except for the truly desperate ones, one wonders? The poetry dweebs to beat all dweebs, that’s who. Unknowing shills for AWP’s vast stable of publishing-house clients, who otherwise lose cash with a cancellation. Not to mention the AWP bank account. Are you and most of your friends there now? Send us some photos, if so. Put on some La Deniere Mode (poetique) duds and let us see how you style.

Here’s a question I have, though I’m not posing it to you, really, but rather more generally: What is the qualitative difference (given that the outbreak is developing as we speak) between organizers of the anti-vaxer movement and the organizers of the AWP, the latter who decided to go ahead with the petri-dish shindig? If that question seems odd at first, think about it.

Anyway, the main thing I wanted to say, young Bucky Badgers, is that you are clearly already infected. Infected with a virus that is far worse and more deadly than anything like COVID-19, which is a bit more noxious than the common flu. Yea, you are infected with the Poetryramavirus, which makes careerist/professional poets so sick they turn into zombies who are radar-tuned into other zombies who are also infected and then they rush at each other and smile and flatter and growl and try to eat each other alive, though they do so while pretending they are being perfectly healthy and normal and nice and professional. This happens at the AWP all the time, and the funny thing is that it happens while everyone is pretending it isn’t, or else clueless that it is (in most cases, arguably, the behavior is unconscious, like zombies more or less are). Everyone is being nice and suave and cool and shoving viscera into their mouths to gather fuel for better position, because that is what they have to do, for that is what the Rules of the Game tell them to do, and if they don’t, they die. You know what I mean, buttercup?

This is also why many careerist/pro poets end up killing themselves outright, after doing the most abominable things in their own petty interests. They just can’t find enough other poets to eat, or suck up to, or sleep with, and they can’t stand the constant high-pitched sounds in their brains the Poetryramavirus makes, which clinical studies define as an unending fingernails-on-blackboard sound, with the volume cranked all the way up. In fact, the death rate of poets by suicide, openly intentional or more “mediated” (alcohol, drugs, Elmer’s Glue, or reading John Ashbery on your phone while driving) is quite a bit higher than the death rate of the Coronavirus.

Poets eat other poets like air. And when they run out of poets to consume, they put their heads into an oven. You cute little losers at UW clearly have the Poetryramavirus, I can sense it.

Love to you all. Because I have it a bit, still, too.

–Emily Post-Avant