Louisville Conference Report

Tyler Babbie

Last month NPF editorial assistant Tyler Babbie attended The 39th Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900 and he wrote a report on his experience, which I am only just now getting around to posting. NPF alumni are always in ample evidence at this three-day event — as presenters and also as subjects of presentations — and this year the NPF list include two of the keynotes: Michael Heller and Rae Armantrout. Tyler unfortunately arrived too late to catch Heller (but you can read all about it on Aldon Lynn Nielsen‘s blog). As for the rest, here is Tyler’s report — with the names of NPF and University of Maine alumni in bold:

This was the first time I have attended the Louisville Conference — I found it friendly and fascinating.  There were plenty of panels on topics that were immediately relevant to the NPF, especially on modern poetry, but there were also panels with more unusual themes (zombie apocalypse!).  You can see the whole program here.

There are over 135 panels crammed into nine time slots and so I only saw a fraction of what was going on. Here are some observations on a few of things I saw:

On Friday the 25th, I attended a panel titled “Re-envisioning H. D.’s Late Writings,” which was sponsored by the H. D. International Society.  I was also going to present on H. D., so I found this one particularly interesting.  Marsha Bryant presented on H. D.’s Helen in Egypt in the context of contemporary epic film — she found that there are many similarities in the ways that Hollywood and H. D. reimagine Homeric epic.  Lheisa Dustin presented on the psychological underpinnings of H. D.’s work, teasing apart some of the difficult passages in Helen in Egypt and The Sword Went Out to Sea. Finally, Jane Augustine read a paper by Emily McCann, who could not attend the conference.  It was on “Queering H.D.’s Trilogy.”  Donna Krollick Hollenberg — like Augustine a longtime contributor to NPF publications and conferences — offered many insights in a lively discussion after the presentations.

My own presentation came later.  Adra Raine of UNC Chapel Hill chaired our panel, “American Modernism and the Life of Things,” a topic suggested by Paideuma contributor and University of Maine professor Tony Brinkley. We were joined by Rebecca Griffin, who is attending UMass Amherst.  The four of us are friends from our time at Maine, though Adra and Rebecca have moved on.  My paper was on H. D. and Mikhail Bakhtin.  Rebecca worked on George Oppen.  Adra presented a paper on the late poetry of Wallace Stevens.  Tony ended our panel with thoughts on William James and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Rae Armantrout reads at the Louisville Conference

After the presentations, we attended a great reading by Rae Armantrout, who was a keynote at our own conference on The Poetry of the 1970s and who has read twice in the New Writing Series.  Here’s a photo, but I am afraid it is not very good — my camera seems to be having trouble focusing.  This wasn’t a problem for the audience, as Armantrout kept us rapt, and managed to draw laughs from all corners of the auditorium.

On Saturday I attended a panel on “Regions of Practice: American Poetics of Relational Space,” which was packed with NPF alumni.  It was very pleasant to meet Ondrea Ackerman, who presented on geopoetics in Gertrude Stein and Robert Grenier.  Her article “The Periplum of the Pisan Cantos” will appear this fall in Paideuma 38.  George Hart presented on Larry Eigner.  His work has appeared in Sagetrieb and he has attended our conferneces.  The panel was chaired by Barrett Watten, who has been a keynote at our conferences and contributed to NPF publications as both poet and scholar.

Another panel I attended was on music, text, and poetry.  Robert Zamsky presented on Robert Creeley‘s relationship to music, Mark Scroggins on the music of the Mekons, and William R. Howe on the unusual poetry and music of Bob Cobbing.  Howe received his M.A. at Maine, working with Burt Hatlen and Carroll Terrell. Scroggins, a longtime friend of the NPF, has contributed to Sagetrieb numerous times and been to several of our conferences.

The last presentation I attended was also on modern poetry.  Rachelle Katz Lerner, a biographer of Kenneth Rexroth, wrote on the contemplative nature of his poetics.  She has also presented on Rexroth at the NPF conferences.  Donna Hollenberg presented on Denise Levertov’s poem “During the Eichmann Trial.”  She has contributed to Paideuma, Sagetrieb, and many of the NPF’s conferences.  George Hart’s presentation on Guy Davenport and Ezra Pound came last.

The conference ended with a party at the house of another longtime friend of the NPF, Alan Golding. This party included a poetry reading that will be on PennSound. At the party I was particularly fortunate to spend time talking to Lerner, who regaled me with off-the-record stories from the life of Kenneth Rexroth.