It was at AWP, not Seattle or LA, but the one in between—I think Minneapolis? It’s hard to pin down locations and years with AWP which seems to never either begin or end but simply exist in an alternate dimension of books and bruised egos all brutally illuminated by fluorescent lighting. I’ve been to so many AWPs and my overwhelming sense of it is that I will never miss the opportunity to go but also that I’m done with it. Ugh. AWP. I never want to be there. I wish I was there right now.
Maybe you’ve been to AWP, maybe you haven’t, but you’ve likely been to some gathering in which everyone present is pretty damn knowledgeable about the topic on the table. You know what that’s like—the posturing, the insecurity. And so it’s a deep relief at the end of the day to step back, to refuse to take another goddamn minute of it seriously.
There we were at the hotel bar. It’s possible that I’m the one who raised the topic of dinosaur erotica. It’s possible that someone else did, but either way, we spent much of the evening dramatically reading aloud the jacket descriptions of every title we could find. The best of them (a dedicated scientist leads a team of experts in the development of a time machine that will let her live out her dream of bedding half-a-dozen dinosaur species) is one I can’t find anymore. Maybe the author pulled it in a fit of shame. It’s too bad. There was a gleeful camp to that one that I admired.
Actually, there’s a good bit about the genre that I admire. There’s the naming of female desires—subversive. The dehumanization of the desired male—subversive. And of course, the alliteration in the titles. Not subversive, but still a thing I like.
My good friend was writing a lot of formal poetry at the time, and I tried talking her into dinosaur erotica poems. Ha ha! she said. I brought it up a second time months later. Ha ha! she said again. I tried talking other people into writing these poems. I wanted them desperately. I can’t explain why.
A few weeks ago, I was talking with my creative writing students about how hard it is to get started, how much I like projects. Whether it’s a novel or a thematic collection of stories or poems, the beauty of working on a book is that you don’t really have to face the blank page for a long time.
But now I’m between, I said. I’m a little jealous of you guys for writing; I don’t have anything to write this week.
But didn’t I have any ideas? they asked.
No. No, I didn’t. I most certainly did not. Except… I mean I do kind of want to write a heroic crown of dinosaur erotica sonnets. But that’s sort of…Do you guys know what a heroic crown is?
Back up, they said. We don’t know what dinosaur erotica is.
Anyway, I made a promise and then had to keep it. I like the idea of keeping promises and while I am stupidly, unfathomably busy right now, I think I can promise one sonnet a week. I can’t think of a reason not to just give them to you here. Maybe we’ll start tomorrow.