Usually, I love the bookfair at AWP for one reason: the stink of desperation. Endless aisles, table after table, all these people sitting there increasingly glassy-eyed, hoping for someone to care. To come check out their chapbooks or website or the benefits of the low residence MFA they’re offering. The desperation is so thick—especially by the end of the second day of the conference—that it’s probably irresponsible of the organizers not to have trays of Xanax set out by the exits and psychological specialists available for on the spot consultations in the lobby.

Can’t blame these exhibitors for getting a bit gloomy. These poor souls spill all this blood and shed all these tears thinking their product/publication/program matters and then travel to some distant city at personal expense to set up and share the fruit of their labor only to discover that basically no one gives a shit. And the sheer volume of people that don’t give a shit is staggering. Sit at an exhibition table at AWP and you’ll watch hundreds, maybe thousands, of people walk by not caring about your hard work. Most of them won’t even respond if you call out or make eye contact if the do accidentally look your way, because they don’t want to have to pretend to give a shit. If they look over all they’re doing is confirming that you’re not McSweeney’s, and if you’re not McSweeney’s you’re screwed.

Actually if you are McSweeney’s it’s probably no better, because what you end up with is all these folks flocking to you, all these desperate dreamers with a manuscript and a sense that they’re owed something, because the only people at AWP more desperate than the exhibitors are the folks the exhibitors are trying to attract.

Anyway, it’s typical for exhibitors to express their desperation through gimmicky giveaways at their tables. Sometimes it’s just free stuff—a tote bag, a bookmark, some postcards; sometimes it’s free books or magazines; sometimes they have food. Who can forget AWP 2012, when 87 people were hospitalized after getting the Norwalk Virus from some bad brownies at the table of one online lit journal? Or AWP 2014, when Jonathan Franzen raised money for the construction of the American Writers Museum by auctioning off the chance to have him take a bodyshot of grape Faygo soda off the highest bidder?

This year, first thing on my first day at the conference, I saw the craziest gimmick yet, and I’m actually feeling pretty upset about it. This publisher called Intensitsea, who specialize in ‘electronic post-translation literature with a focus on a systematic reduction of gender’ has a cheap Weber gas grill set up on their table next to a cardboard box full of about 150 baby silkie chicks. For every AWP attendee who signs up for their mailing list, they’ll spare one chick—and Saturday night at 5pm, when the bookfair ends, they’re going to toss the remaining chicks onto the grill and roast them alive.

I spoke with Gene Slatter, the publisher of Intensitsea, in order to find out what the fuck he was thinking; he told me that he believes the work Intensitsea is producing is of such dire importance for “the future of literature and Earth and possibly even worlds beyond the realm of common knowledge,” that the sacrifice of some baby chicks is a fair price for getting the word out.

I also spoke with an AWP coordinator who asked not to be named but said nothing about being described. A woman around sixty-years old, curly reddish hair and an amulet containing what looks like clippings of human hair around her saggy throat. I wanted to know why AWP was allowing this to happen—cruelty to animals for sure, and a fire code violation at the very least—and she told me that Slatter was being permitted the right to pursue his religious freedoms. I asked her what religion it was that included barbaric rites like roasting sweet baby chicks to death, and was told ‘The kind of religion that spreads quickly, that rings of a truth you’ve always known but never articulated, that gives names to shapes you’ve seen but never known.’

Guys, if you’re at AWP please take a moment to track down the Intensitsea booth and I guess sign up for their newsletter. It might be the only way to save these baby chicks. I thought about stealing the box off the table but I got priors and can’t take the heat.