A week in NYC: living the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award (Part 1)

It’s Sunday lunchtime, and I am a bit more than halfway through my week in New York City courtesy of my win on the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange award (WEX) from Poets & Writers. Quick recap: this is a yearly prize in which one poet and one fiction writer from a selected state win an all-expenses paid trip to NYC to meet leading lights from the literary and publishing worlds, in order to help them boost their careers. The selected state for 2017 was Maine, and I won the poetry section; so here I am in NYC, very much enjoying my prize.

Right now I am sitting in the excellent Library Hotel on Madison Avenue and 41st, looking at a rain-soaked view up the Avenue and across to the New York Public Library, and trying to sum up what the first half of the visit has meant.

Well, it has been great. I haven’t been to NYC since 1994, so I’ve loved seeing again some of the places that imprinted themselves on my mind back then: Central Park, 5th Avenue, the Empire State, the Chrysler Building, and so on.









Seeing the Twin Towers memorial was particularly moving, of course, since my last visit they were still there, and I went up them.



I’ve had wonderful company everywhere: first and foremost Joan Dempsey, the talented fiction winner (pictured with me at the P&W office above); and Bonnie Marcus from Poets & Writers, who organized everything flawlessly and who takes us out for lunch, coffees, and dinner every day! Then my wife drove down heroically from Maine on Friday with the kids, and we spent time together as a family yesterday and this morning.

And there have been the meetings. So far my guests have been Patricia Carlin, of Barrow Street; Clarissa Long, of Four Way Books; Brett Fletcher Lauer, poetry editor of A Public Space and deputy director of the Poetry Society of America; Bob Hershon of Hanging Loose Press; Jen Benka, executive director of the Academy of American Poets; Kate Angus of Augury Books; and poets Geoffrey Nutter and Jeffrey McDaniel. That was just Thursday and Friday, and I haven’t even included the meetings with Joan’s fiction people, which included an unforgettable visit to the New Yorker offices in the new World Trade building.

As well as being highly informative, all my guests have been cool people to meet (of course they are, they’re poets), and I’ve had enjoyable and informative conversations with everyone. I feel like everyone has filled in a slightly different part of the overall picture of American poetry writing and publishing, and I’m deeply grateful for it.

But there are still two days to go! Tonight I’ll be giving my first-ever reading in NYC, at the McNally Jackson bookstore on 52 Prince St.

Then tomorrow and Tuesday morning we have more rounds of meetings, before flying home to Portland on Tuesday evening. I have confidently called this post Part 1, knowing that there’s much more to come; but whether I will actually get time to write it after I get home, I am not sure! Anyway, here’s Part 1. The WEX is wonderful, and if your state is picked, you should enter.

4 thoughts on “A week in NYC: living the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award (Part 1)”

  1. Naomi Shihab Nye

    Brian, thanks for sharing your exciting NYC journey with us! Congratulations! I also wish I could have attended your reading. What a great prize this is. So glad you got to meet Jen Benka – one of my heroes.

    1. Hi Naomi, thanks for commenting! Yes, it has been a wonderful trip. Jen was great: I may be talking to her some more about how the AAP can support poets’ work in schools. We had a conversation about it.

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