Poetry & Poetics of the 1990s: Schedule

1990s Web bannerThe National Poetry Foundation welcomes more than a hundred scholars and writers to the University of Maine for its conference on “The Poetry and Poetics of the 1990s.” Members of the public are welcome to attend.

The full program can be downloaded here: Program_Poetry-Poetics of the 1990s_2017-06-28. Biographical notes for many participants are here: 90s_Bio-notes. Abstracts are here: 90s_Abstracts_2017-06-28. Roundtable descriptions are here: 90s-Roundtables.

WEDNESDAY | JUNE 28, 2017

Venue: Buchanan Alumni House
6:30pm Opening reception (buffet and cash bar)

THURSDAY | JUNE 29, 2017

Venue: DP Corbett
10:00am
First round of panels & roundtables
11:30pm Box lunches and open forum
12:45pm Second round of panels
2:30pm Third round of panels

Venue: IMRC Center – Stewart Commons
4:30pm
Plenary poetry reading by Ron Silliman
8:00pm Featured reading by Jena Osman
8:30pm Featured reading by Rod Smith
9:00pm Featured reading by Lee Ann Brown
9:30pm Featured reading by Elizabeth Willis
10:15pm Late night readings curated by Jason Mitchell

FRIDAY | JUNE 30, 2017

Venue: DP Corbett
10:00am
Fourth round of panels & roundtables
11:30pm Box lunches and open forum
12:45pm Fifth round of panels
2:30pm Sixth round of panels

Venue: IMRC Center – Stewart Commons
4:30pm
Special event: Jayne Cortez, Adrienne Rich and the Feminist Superhero

Venue: Wells Conference Center
6:00pm
Banquet – preregistration required

Venue: IMRC Center – Stewart Commons
8:30pm
Featured reading by Prageeta Sharma
9:00pm Featured reading by Jennifer Moxley
9:30pm Featured reading by David Trinidad
10:15pm Late night readings curated by Jason Mitchell

SATURDAY | JULY 1, 2017

Venue: DP Corbett
10:00am
Seventh round of panels & roundtables
11:30pm Box lunches and open forum
12:45pm Eighth round of panels & roundtables
2:30pm Ninth round of panels & roundtables

Venue: IMRC Center – Stewart Commons
4:30pm
Plenary poetry reading by Myung Mi Kim
8:00pm Featured reading by Erica Hunt
8:30pm Featured reading by Benjamin Friedlander
9:00pm Featured reading by James Thomas Stevens
9:30pm Featured reading by Dodie Bellamy
10:15pm Late night readings curated by Jason Mitchell

Confirmed Panelists & Roundtable Participants

Charles Alexander, Brendan Allen, Jacquelyn Ardam, Mary Kate Azcuy, Jennifer Bartlett, John Beer, Ann Bolotin, James Brophy, Erika Jo Brown, Charmaine Cadeau, Eleanor Careless, Kristen Case, Genéve Chao, Carrie Conners, Sally Connolly, Stephen Cope, Jessica Cotton, Caroline Crew, Stephan Delbos, Joseph Donahue, Paul Eaton, Ed Foster, Maureen Gallagher, Kaplan Harris, Tessa Hathaway, Jeanne Heuving, Scarlett Higgins, Laura Hinton, Matthew Hofer, Bruce Holsapple, W. Scott Howard, Jill Hughes, Elisabeth Joyce, Megan Kaminski, Charles Kell, Rachel Kennedy, Burt Kimmelman, Kimberly Lamm, Katy Lederer, Kandace Lombart, Brandon Menke, Andrew Mulvania, David Need, Miriam Nichols, Janelle Poe, Scott Pound, Adra Raine, Saba Syed Razvi, Andrew Rippeon, Joseph Romano, Jeremy Schmidt, Susan M. Schultz, Mark Scroggins, Travis Sharp, Jonathan Skinner, Dale Smith, Laura T. Smith, Clinton Spaulding, Jessica Stark, Brian Kim Stefans, Susan Vanderborg, Ann Vickery, Laura E. Vrana, Mark Wallace, Don Wellman, Lesley Ann Wheeler, and Qinghong Xu.

Register here | Directions to DP Corbett | Directions to IMRC Center

Poetry & Poetics of the 1990s: Update

1990sThe National Poetry Foundation is delighted to announce that the following writers and scholars have agreed to honor us with their presence at the Poetry & Poetics of the 1990s conference this June 28-July 1, 2017.

Keynote Poets
Myung Mi Kim and Ron Silliman

Featured Writers
Dodie Bellamy, Lee Ann Brown, Benjamin Friedlander, Erica Hunt, Jennifer Moxley, Jena Osman, Prageeta Sharma, Rod Smith, James Thomas Stevens, David Trinidad, and Elizabeth Willis

Special Guests
Kevin Killian and Juliette Valéry

Special Event
Jayne Cortez, Adrienne Rich and the Feminist Superhero: The Poetics of Women’s Political Resistance, organized by Laura Hinton

Curator & Host of Late Night Readings
Jason Mitchell

Confirmed Panelists as of June 15

Charles Alexander, Brendan Allen, Jacquelyn Ardam, Mary Kate Azcuy, Jennifer Bartlett, John Beer, Ann Bolotin, James Brophy, Erika Jo Brown, Charmaine Cadeau, Eleanor Careless, Kristen Case, Genéve Chao, Carrie Conners, Sally Connolly, Stephen Cope, Jessica Cotton, Caroline Crew, Stephan Delbos, Joseph Donahue, Paul Eaton, Ed Foster, Maureen Gallagher, Kaplan Harris, Tessa Hathaway, Jeanne Heuving, Scarlett Higgins, Laura Hinton, Matthew Hofer, Bruce Holsapple, W. Scott Howard, Jill Hughes, Elisabeth Joyce, Megan Kaminski, Charles Kell, Rachel Kennedy, Burt Kimmelman, Kimberly Lamm, Katy Lederer, Kandace Lombart, Brandon Menke, Andrew Mulvania, David Need, Miriam Nichols, Janelle Poe, Scott Pound, Patrick Pritchett, Adra Raine, Saba Syed Razvi, Andrew Rippeon, Joseph Romano, Jeremy Schmidt, Susan M. Schultz, Mark Scroggins, Travis Sharp, Jonathan Skinner, Dale Smith, Laura T. Smith, Clinton Spaulding, Jessica Stark, Brian Kim Stefans, Susan Vanderborg, Ann Vickery, Laura E. Vrana, Mark Wallace, Don Wellman, Lesley Ann Wheeler, and Qinghong Xu.  

If you’d like to learn more about the conference, drop us a line at npf.paideuma@gmail.com. Day passes for non-presenters are available on a “pay as you wish” basis.

CfP: The Poetry & Poetics of the 1990s

The Poetry & Poetics of the 1990s – Call for Proposals
National Poetry Foundation, University of Maine
June 28 – July 1, 2017

The Editorial Collective of the National Poetry Foundation invites paper and panel proposals for the last in our sequence of “decade” conferences, to be devoted to the Poetry and Poetics of the 1990s, American and international, and to be held June 28 – July 1, 2017 on the flagship campus of the University of Maine System in Orono, Maine.

The NPF welcomes paper and panel proposals on any and all aspects of poetic practice in the decade of the 1990s. What emerged? What changed? What happened just out of frame? What connections brought poetry into dialog with other fields? What social and political contexts mattered most? What of the present can be traced back to that moment? What poets, poetic formations, tendencies in poetics warrant our continued attention? What accidents of reception might we now revisit and perhaps repair?

Prospective participants are encouraged to draw on the full range of archival resources in conceiving their projects, including the digital audio, digital video, and digital facsimile holdings now widely available on-line. Panels and papers that foreground the diversity of poetry practices and communities in the 1990s are especially welcome.

As with previous NPF conferences, the scholarly presentations and panels will be complemented by numerous poetry readings, including plenary readings by notable figures associated with the decade being explored.

Small-press and academic publishers are also invited to take part in our book fair.

Paper proposals consisting of a title and a brief (approx. 300 word) abstract should be directed to the NPF Editorial Collective at npf.paideuma@gmail.com.

Panel proposals should include a brief rationale for the envisioned grouping. Proposals for alternative forms of intellectual practice/presentation, such as roundtables or seminars, will be read with interest.

The extended (and firm) deadline for proposals is April 15, 2017. Requests for extensions should be directed to npf.paideuma@gmail.com.

Queries may be directed to any member of the Editorial Collective:

Carla Billitteri (carla.billitteri@umit.maine.edu)
Steve Evans (steven.evans@maine.edu)
Benjamin Friedlander (ben.friedlander@umit.maine.edu)
Jennifer Moxley (jennifer.moxley@maine.edu)

 Visit npfconferences for information about previous NPF conferences and our Facebook page for updates about the upcoming one.

Black Mountain College at MSA 17

The Song of the Border-Guard 1952 by Cy Twombly 1928-2011

Cy Twombly (1928-2011). The Song of the Border-Guard, 1952.

The Modernist Studies Association (MSA) hosts its seventeenth annual conference this week in Boston. Among the many events planned are three roundtables on Black Mountain College and a Friday evening trip to the ICA/Boston to take in Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933-1957, curated by Helen Molesworth with Ruth Erickson.

Faculty affiliated with the NPF worked closely for over a year with Marjorie Howes, Paige Reynolds, and, especially, Carrie Preston of the MSA host committee and Monica Garza and Ruth Erickson at the ICA/Boston to ensure that conference participants would be in a position to take full advantage of this major exhibition featuring many connections to this year’s themes of “Modernism and Revolution.” Among the presenters at the MSA are several scholars who also participated in the NPF’s recent symposium on Black Mountain College.

R1. Black Mountain College (I): Conceptual Underpinnings
Thursday, Nov. 19, 3:45-5:15
Westin Copley Place, Essex South

Session Organizer: Steve Evans; Chair: Steve Evans.
Featuring Carla Billitteri, Seth Forrest, Stephen Fredman, Elisabeth Joyce, and Roger Rothman.

The first of three roundtables related to the Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933-1957 exhibition at the ICA/Boston. Participants in this roundtable will explore the conceptual and theoretical underpinnings of the College’s pedagogical and artistic practices. Carla Billitteri will connect Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy to Charles Olson’s work, especially in The Special View of History. Seth Forrest will trace the shifting aesthetic across art forms at BMC from Albers’s matière to the noise poetics of Cage and Olson. His talk will reference several works on display at the ICA’s Leap Before You Look exhibition, from photographs of artwork produced in Albers’s course to Cage’s Theater Piece No. 1 and Williams Mix to poems by Olson and Larry Eigner to sculpture by John Chamberlain and Robert Rauschenberg. Stephen Fredman will discuss the huge impact of John Dewey, and especially his landmark Art as Experience (1934), on the development of an experiential art at Black Mountain. Fredman will consider the lesser-known dance drama by Charles Olson, “Apollonius of Tyana,” as a manifesto of experiential art. Elisabeth Joyce takes up the issue of “process” and “projectivism” from the perspective of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of “operative intentionality,” which argues that it is essential to “recognize consciousness itself as a project of the world. As destined to a world that it neither encompasses nor possesses, but toward which it never ceases to be directed.” Roger Rothman will discuss John Cage’s “affirmative materialism” as an alternative to a perhaps depleted tradition of “institutional critique,” arguing that “Cage’s work is a model of the sort of rigorous acceptance, whether of good or evil, that can distinguish an affirmative avant-garde from the mainstream practices of institutional critique.” Rothman draws on Jacques Rancière’s reading of Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man, a text that in important ways prefigures Dewey’s Art as Experience. Wherever possible, participants in the roundtable will connect their remarks to the works being displayed and performed as part of the ICA’s exhibition.

R9. Black Mountain College (II): Interdisciplinarity
Friday, Nov. 20, 3:30-5:00pm
Westin Copley Place, Essex Center

Session Organizer: Carrie Preston; Chair: Stephen Fredman.
Featuring Charmaine Cadeau, Mary Ann Caws, Steve Evans, Carrie Noland (*), and Katherine Markoski.

The second of three roundtables related to the Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933-1957 exhibition at the ICA/Boston. Participants in this roundtable will examine the range of interdisciplinary work that Black Mountain College fostered both through its dynamically evolving curriculum and its innovative summer institutes. Charmaine Cadeau will trace MC Richards’ embodied practices as a poet-potter to her scholarship on the Chinese ideogram, Artaud’s idea of theatre as “a kind of unique language—halfway through gesture and thought,” and, eventually, eurythmy. Mary Ann Caws will present on Robert Motherwell’s collage practice, his role as a conduit for bringing Dadaism into the postwar years, and his art pedagogy. Steve Evans will discuss the plans Josef Albers formulated in 1948 to reorganize Black Mountain as an art school—plans that were seriously contemplated but, fatefully, never carried out. Carrie Noland will investigate the ways Robert Rauschenberg’s photographic work informed his decade-long relationship with the Merce Cunningham Dance company, for which he served as Artistic Director. Noland will show how Cunningham came to think of his own choreographic work as a collage of elements, and how he integrated “the photographic” into his conception of movement. Katherine Markoski will address dance as, in poet Charles Olson’s words, “the most forward of the disciplines, focusing on Olson’s encounters with Cunningham and the “Glyph exchange” into which he entered, as a poet, with dancer Katherine Litz, the composer Lou Harrison, and the painter Ben Shahn. In this roundtable, the disciplines of poetry, painting, photography, drama, choreography, and musical composition converge and cross-pollinate around the concept of “gesture” or “the haptic.” Wherever possible, participants will connect their remarks to the works being displayed and performed as part of the ICA’s exhibition, in which this concept of “the haptic” is foregrounded as an explicit curatorial principle of selection and display.

R13. Black Mountain College (III): Dispersed Publishing Networks
Saturday, Nov. 21, 10:30-noon
Westin Copley Place, Rockport

Session Organizer: Benjamin Friedlander; Chair: Roger Rothman.
Featuring Benjamin Friedlander, Kaplan Harris, Benjamin Lee, Brian McAllister, and Alessandro Porco.

The last of three roundtables related to the Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933-1957 exhibition at the ICA/Boston. Participants in this roundtable will explore the dispersed publishing networks associated with the College and the practices of textual scholarship that might best represent them. Benjamin Friedlander will attempt to bring the precise nature of Charles Olson’s accomplishments while at Black Mountain into clearer focus by offering a description of what a volume of Olson’s Black Mountain writings might look like and an account of how the subordinator of genre to chronology might shift the discourse on his work as a whole. Kaplan Harris will discuss “The Mimeo Revolution and the Free Market: Funding Mina Loy, Charles Olson, and Lorine Niedecker for the Jargon Society.” Harris draws on the financial records of the Jargon Society archived at the University at Buffalo to delineate the philanthropic, fundraising, and marketing practices that protected Jonathan Williams’s press from bankruptcy for more than four decades. Benjamin Lee’s presentation seeks to answer the question “What happens to poetry communities after they disperse?” He explores the considerable influence the College exerted after it closed in 1956, touching on communities that coalesced in Gloucester, Manhattan and Brooklyn, San Francisco and Berkeley, and elsewhere. Paying particular attention to Olson’s Maximus Poems and Fielding Dawson’s The Black Mountain Book, Lee emphasizes both the continued pull Black Mountain continued to exert on its former residents and the variability of their response. Brian McAllister, in his contribution, maps interactions, correspondences, and developments of experimental and avant-garde journals through the 1950s and 1960s by looking at exchanges between the American journals Origin (Cid Corman, ed.) and Black Mountain Review (Robert Creeley, ed.), and the Scottish journal Poor. Old. Tired. Horse. (Ian Hamilton Finlay, ed.) in order to chart the development and distribution of various poetic practices. McAllister’s central claim is that by considering the publishing choices, editorial policies, and correspondences within and between these various journals and their editors in tandem with poetic practices throughout this period, we can identify clear lines of development from the predominantly American, Objectivist poetry of Louis Zukofsky, Lorine Niedecker, and others to the international, Concrete poetry that found space in later issues of Finlay’s journal. Alessandro Porco’s remarks will center on the work of two students at Black Mountain who mixed “bad attitude” with “artistic ingenuity,” Jerrold Levy and Richard Negro. Porco situates their jointly composed heteronymic work The Poems of Gerard Legro in terms of its genesis and its relation to the collaborative tradition at Black Mountain before turning to a consideration of the way their employment of heteronymy and pseudonymy indirectly critiqued the pedagogy of both Josef Albers and Charles Olson. Wherever possible, participants will connect their remarks to the works being displayed and performed as part of the ICA’s exhibition.

*Due to the recent events in Paris, where she is based this semester, Carrie Noland’s participation is at this time uncertain.

Guest post | “My 2012 Orono” by Linda Russo

My 2012 Orono

Here I offer for public review my most keenly-sensed take-away from the Poetry & Poetics of the 1980s Conference.

Because I have long been a reader of poetry written in this decade, and though my current scholarly interests expire by the end of the 1970s (I’ve attended both the Poetry of the 1960s and 1970s conference), I went to Orono to revel in poetry and community under summer skies. I didn’t intend to produce a social (or cloud) document – thus, sadly, I have few pictures – but to be present and observe, absorb, and perform. Contributing to a panel and having been invited by Laura Hinton (in early June) to contribute the “Poetry and Performance” event she was organizing, my lead-time to the conference was very intense and productive and, at the other end, for three full conference days I nourished my curiosities and enthusiasms. And here I shamelessly indulge these. Who would want it any other way is free to look for it elsewhere.

I arrived on Wednesday eve from Boston with Cathy Wagner as my excellent driving companion and navigator. Amidst our roving conversation we visited upon Irigaray, Denise Riley, conceptual poetry, the institution of academia (she must have recently been thinking about or writing her contribution to the Poetic Labor Project), and creative practice, among other things. I think I gave her a run down of the “geographies of relation” concept I would focus on in our panel (“Feminism in the ‘80s”). We got lost in Auburn, Maine following GPS directions to Food City and happily stumbled upon Axis Natural Foods (I prefer a food village) where I was able to stock up on sustaining wheat-free vittles (having recently discovered my love for Liz Lovely vegan/gluten free cookies). Like others traveling north, we drove under a cloud-smudged rainbow.

Thursday morning I attended the “Gender and Genre” panel where two poets on my 80s conference reading list (see photo below) – Bernadette Mayer and Rosmarie Waldrop—were featured. Being the first panel of the conference, and given my longstanding interest in what arises and is subverted at the intersection of gender and genre, I was eager to hear what would unfold. Ellen McGrath Smith’s presentation of a history of the framing/taming of the prose poem to reclaim a critical view of its vitality as a space of “writing the feminine” (so to speak), included the panel’s most memorable line: “when we start to talk about uncles, maybe it’s time to drop the lineage metaphor altogether.” I found it interesting that this group of papers (including David Need’s comparison of Bernadette’s Midwinter Day and Fanny Howe’s The Lives of a Spirit as sites of DeCerteauian resistance with particular attention to formal strategies and the quotidian and Ben Gillespie’s analysis, couched in a history of visual aesthetics in poetry, of resistance to the authority of the page as a visual space in Waldrop’s prose poems) dealt with gender and genre as separate categories, rather than as a cross-section of thinking, one as a lens for the other, for instance. Given the way panels get named on such occasions, it’s not fair to hold any of these scholars to account, but this interesting juxtaposition did at the time prompt me to wonder (aloud, as it turns out) if there was reason to revisit this sort of decidedly gendered genre critique (so thoroughly addressed in the work of Rachel Blau DuPlessis and other scholars), if there was more to say.

That afternoon, I attended “Post-Generic Writing in the 1980s” with Stephen Fredman, Peter Middleton and Kaplan Harris, whose provocations were excellently placed for Marjorie Perloff, Respondent, in this well-attended panel (to provide a little illustrative seating chart, I sat between Laura Moriarty and Miriam Nichols whilst Pen Creeley and Susan Howe sat in front of me). Marjorie selected her choice spots to prod and produce smoke if not sparks; she began, I believe, with the panel title: “is there a post-generic? of is it just a different genre?” (Given my own confessed prod to the previous panel, I have to marvel at the efficacy of this simple, some would say obvious, strategy). Middleton’s paper came closest to articulating the 1980s as a cultural-political time frame for poetry—and I note this because it seemed underplayed, at least in the variety of panels I attended—looking at correspondences between then-contemporary discourses (medicine/AIDS, finance/US economy) and Lyn Hejinian’s The Cell. The panel as a whole—with Kaplan offering as an entre into his look at San Francisco as a literary-geographical site a passage from Kathy Acker’s early novella The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec by Henri Toulouse Lautrec (1978) that prominently features (or deploys) “Ron Silliman” and Fredman’s paced treatment of attenuations of “poet’s prose” in Hejinian, Acker, and Cha—was well-rounded and it was interesting to see scholars one after the other at work in such different critical modes.

A little aside here on note-taking in panels. I’m terribly impressed with absorptive audients, those few, usually the more accomplished, who put on a serene face and drink ideas in. Personally, I take a lot of notes, mostly illegible, to swat ideas down onto my brain, if only fleetingly.

Susan Howe & Charles Bernstein, both of whom I’d studied with at Buffalo and neither of whom I’d seen perform for an audience a whole lot outside of the classroom, gave the keynote readings that evening, so this was a real treat. The Poetry Reading Keynote is often approached by reading through works chronologically, offering a bit of a personal overview. In addition to doing so, Susan illustrated a set of cultural changes in the 1980s—in poetry publishing, community formation, and the relationship of individuals and institutions. She began her reading by elaborating on the significance of Maureen Owens’s mimeo’d Telephone magazine and Telephone Books. Owens published from the late 60s into the early 80s, putting out two titles of Howe’s (Hinge Picture, 1974, and Secret History of the Dividing Line, 1978). Susan continued to thread throughout the rest of her reading comments about entering academia after joining the faculty of UB in the late 1980s (her first and only academic appointment) and the pressure this exerted on her work. Charles’ reading was perhaps generically illustrative of this point, with a wide range of poetry and criticism and translations, some off-rhyming. I always feel that Susan’s readings are haunted throughout by her own voice; both chose to read works touching on personal losses, Susan reading from That This, and Charles performing his beautiful and sad rendition of “Der Erlkonig.”

Who, afterwards, didn’t float along with others up to the bar, didn’t touch elbows with a few fellow people, wasn’t like me. We were celebrating life and community just by being there, and I perhaps at the time even took this for granted, for I remember only silly things, like how Jonathan Skinner joined me in conveying for Charles how his shirt appeared to change from a flat peach to the pale orange gingham pattern it was (I can’t remember Jonathan’s experience of the pattern/hue) during his reading. The elevator on this second floor continued to spill out people and drinks continued to be paid for and poured, yet I left the festive scene to head back to my suite to put last-minute touches on my presentation for the next morning’s panel, “Feminism in the 1980s.” I might keep right on going with this paragraph despite the shift to a new topic since this next and that last seem to have been separated by only a few winks. It was early—9 a.m.—when a convincingly alert-appearing and good-sized audience assembled. Arielle Greenberg, panel organizer, provided a provocative run down of what remains visible and what we need to continue to try to see about the 1980s in “W(h)ither Feminist Poetics in the 80s? Some Speculative History.”

Cathy Wagner’s “Identificatory Stances and Identificatory Trances: Denise Riley and the Legacy of Her Lyric Argument” made a great case for a historical reading of Riley’s subversion of lyric that, for Cathy, called into question the professed intentions of Conceptual Poetry regarding the disappearance of authorial intentionality these days. I rounded out the panel with a performative reading from several stacks of index cards (I’d meant it to look somewhat like a Tarot reading, and one audience member described it, I later heard, as “ludic,” so that was nice)—a series of questions, observations, and propositions viewing 1980s long poems by women (I primarily referenced Mayer, Waldrop, and Howe but was also thinking, sometimes aloud, about Notley, Berssenbrugge, Scalapino, and Dahlen,) not as discursive disruptions (a la ecriture feminine, Kristeva’s chora, post-structuralist subjectivities, etc.) but as investigations of actual space as a site of female inhabitance, with the text as a “geo-graphy”—a writing of actual spatial relations which are gendered and inform cultural constructions and performances of gender. The discussion following treaded along the mobius strip of woman/writer and raised the issue of the 80s being an era of multiple feminisms.

For anyone interested in the back story, here’s an aside for you. I had wanted to challenge my own prohibitive sense of how an “academic” conference paper “must” proceed; I decided not to write a paper, and this felt risky, though I was encouraged by Arielle in our conversations leading up to the conference to use the occasion of our panel as an exploratory forum. In devising my performance (sometimes I would call it a “talk” but given the venerable history of that word in the poetic configurations that emerged in the 1980s, I must acknowledge my folly), I proposed for myself a “reading list” of long poems by women,

taking these as a context for my thinking and performing. I came to think of my presentation as more of a provocation than an argument. Knowledge, and how one brings this to bear on the spaces she inhabits, is not gender neutral. We are all Susan Howe in some archive; her radical rearrangements and the female presences that emerge were important for me in thinking through what other women poets accomplish in terms of place and writing.

Since my own inquiries are into space and time, I looked forward to the “Temporality” panel up next, and I was not disappointed. Stephanie Anderson (“The Submerged Date in Coolidge and Eigner, 1982-84”), Charmaine Cadeau (“Time after Time: Creeley in the 80s”) and Lytle Shaw (“The Eigner Sanction: Keeping Time From the American Century”) are all people I look forward to hearing more from; I was hooked on their every word and unfortunately had to cut out of Lytle’s paper early to attend a run-through of the evening’s “Poetry and Performance” event and I felt as I though I was leaving in the middle of a fantastic story (the rockets and jets and bombs! the maps in the sky! the neighborhood as project! seeking a home! ideological constraints!) and I hoped some one would tell me how it ended (Lytle has since graciously shared his paper with me. Thanks, Lytle!)

I met up with Aldon Nielsen, Evie Shockley, Cathy Wagner, and Laura Hinton—there’s a photo of me on Aldon’s website bursting with laughter—I don’t remember what about. But we had great fun figuring out how to perform each other’s pieces and, we all agreed, assembled an intriguing program. More on this in a bit.

After lunch, in “A Sisterhood of Exploration: The Feminist Project of HOW(ever),” Linda Kinnahan began by passing out issues of the slim “magazine” (talk about gender and genre!) for attendees to peruse. This is living history: the feel of the urgency of assembly, of putting these various texts and visual text side by side in a collage of inquiry in fragments unpressured and gestating—this is what feminism in the 80s, to me, who wasn’t (quite) there, is about. Through an exploratory and collaborative mode of inquiry, HOW(ever) tapped into a broad range of critical and creative works and their cross section. The three papers on this panel offered very different and useful points of access into this important project. Getting to know Kathleen Fraser and HOW(ever) was part and parcel of my introduction to LangPo as a larger avant-garde formation and very important in getting me to Buffalo’s Poetics Program; she/it helped structure a lot of my thinking about feminism and innovation and the small press, and I’m glad to see there is still much more to be explored.

Our next stop in the conference proceedings is the cocktail hour preceding the banquet. Picture the variety of people pouring into a somewhat narrow, large-windowed space, lining up for the bar and forming mobile evolving chat-clusters; picture it from above, how it might look like generative cellular activity as participants continue to show up and cluster and circulate and recluster. And flash to the organized pattern of banquet tables with a few cells swaying about in search of a free chair.

Poor lobsters of Maine! How we photographed and feasted upon thee in your last red moments. Here, Cathy Wagner loving cradles her lobster:

Amidst all this we gave the customary but no less heartfelt round of applause for conference organizers Steve Evans and Carla Billitteri (and partners Jennifer Moxley and Ben Friedlander). Steve at some point cued up a video of Alice Notley reading from Mysteries of Small Houses—a nice touch. Here, Steve and Carla announcing the winner to the Thatcher-Reagan Photo Caption Contest:

After the banquet I had the pleasure of walking a stretch to the evening’s keynotes with Meta DuEwa Jones who remembered me from years ago when she’d been interviewed for a position at Buffalo and I was a grad student and we talked about C.S. Giscombe and mapping. I’d seen her give a paper the previous month in San Francisco on a fantastic panel on African-American poetics with Evie Shockley called “Innovative Nostalgia,” where her claim that “what’s nameless can be landscaped or mapped geographically” had encouraged me to consider mapmaking as a cultural practice and poetics as a way of disrupting hegemonic mapping.

Keynote Speaker Marjorie Perloff was vibrant as ever as she zoned in on Charles Bernstein’s Contents Dream and Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson, looking in particular at the work they accomplish in terms of theory and criticism at the level of language. It was great to hear close readings of passages in both of these seminal works. I had, sadly, to miss most of Kevin Killian’s piece to do tech set-up for the “Poetry and Performance” event, but I took strength from hearing him voice a few paragraphs, from seeing the characteristic flick of his head to shake back his bangs (and from watching the whole talk on youtube right after the conference. Just do it).

The “Poetry and Performance” event offered a fantastic array of works. Aldon Nielsen has posted on this on his blog (which includes a copy of the program for the event and he has since updated his blog with many photos laying down a social history of the whole conference) as has Laura Hinton.

Part of Laura’s impetus for organizing this event was to represent within the frame of the conference poets pushing at the boundaries of the “poetry reading.” Success. First up was Cathy Wagner, singing and performing poems in several voices; Evie Shockley and Laura Hinton’s pieces similarly bumped out the vocal space of the poetry reading proper. Evie’s reading/singing commenced with her remixed phrase “Those who cannot forget history are destined to remix it” and her poems continue to mix it up, presenting linguistic and sonic clashes that provoke new thought forms (beautifully resonant of Harryette Mullen, I thought; these two I had just seen read at the ALA conference the previous month). Laura’s “Paris in the Springtime” included dance moves (my dance debut). Laura and I donned masks for one piece in which the audio cued us in a series of difficult moves (because fast or moving quickly on vertical/horizontal axes) and looking out at the audience through a mask while performing in this sort of disembodied way was really interesting. Next came my first soundscape piece, a multivocal reading of a page from my recent chapbook American Heritage Syntax, with Aldon, Evie, and, volunteering from the audience, Robin Tremblay-McGaw, together with my own voice presenting a fantastically layered assemblage of sounds (sometimes remixed) from these short poems. A delight for me, personally, to hear this particular articulation of sound forms in time, and the audience thought it was a hoot too. It was a great audience! From then the program went techno, with video, audio, recorded and spoken voice on the part of Laura, Aldon, and myself. Aldon’s recordings of this event will be available at PennSound in the near future, I’m told. This event was of course a favorite of mine since it was, for me, several firsts: my first theatrical performance as a part of Laura’s lovely work; my first multivocal sound collage; my first soundscape-audio/poemtext piece, “Geothermal/Jarditha” (based on recent travels in Iceland); and the debut of “South Fork Palouse River,” an interactive map-poem. This concluded the program, though I soon after read the text of this piece aloud for the audience, since Douglas Rothschild had at this point arrived, having decided to move the Open Mic reading into this space. It began with some marvelous found poems by a man whose name I didn’t catch.

Lo but though this event began late and ended later, the evening was only starting. Cathy, Alan Golding, and I headed over to the dorms and on into what has gone down in the cyber archive as the “Gray Dorm Reading” corralled and documented by Richard Owens (of Damn the Caesars) and up on YouTube (with performances by Brian Ang, Allen Golding, David Lau, Joe Luna, Michael Peters, Christopher Rizzo, Samuel Soloman, Cathy Wagner, and yours truly). We walked into a roomful of about a dozen young men and one woman, who was visibly relieved to see Cathy and myself. After some chatter and rousing and the procurement of a bottle of whiskey (the beer was running low), the readings began, including Alan Golding offering a rendition of the ballad Lord Donald (sadly cut off after 47 seconds, since Richard was having battery drainage issues). Joe Luna must have been the star of the evening since his video’s gotten five times as many views as anyone else’s. A handful of guys performed. I want to call these short events (generally 5-7 minute) “performances” and not merely “readings” (all readings are performances), since the total effect on this participant was to register them a gender performances, though they were perhaps not conscious ones, or perhaps only “self-conscious” in the sense one might be aware of articulating bodily gestures such that they (and the self they correspond to) correspond to a certain construction of “poet” (where male bodies historically serve as default models). It soon struck me that it was quite late (maybe 2:30 a.m.?) and I was getting ready to leave when Rich granted me the floor. Entering into this male space, an interesting proposition, provoked a sense of embodiment, of needing to project my awareness of that into that space, so I performed, carefully positioning a nearby chair into the performance space and then straddling it backwards, as the moment seemingly required. I had with me for poems only the same single copied page from American Heritage Syntax that we’d used in the Poetry and Performance event, and these I read, slowly, because they have a lot of space around them, but, dangling these little poems out there

I was also enjoying the contrast in pace and verbal density from the previous performances. Certainly it is a way of giving the poems “force” without all the muscularity. I suppose I was playing/working with how that space was being constructed, as any conceptual poet would (though I’m not a conceptual poet). After I left, Cathy recited and sang from memory some medieval lyrics. Sorry I missed that.

Saturday I rose bright and early for a full day of interesting panels. Each included three thought-provoking presentations, and here I offer a selective account with a few highlights: from “Transmission, Tradition, and Change,” Jonathan Skinner’s commentary on Michael McClure’s ecopoetics with a disturbing video of him (McClure) roaring at a caged lion (“grahhr”), here pictured along with Benjamin Friedlander and Stuffed Tiger.

I’m still stretching my brain into his (Skinner’s?) proposition to think of the poem as an animal (contrary to Williams’ valorization of the machine); from “Interrogating Agency, Authorship, and Reproduction,” Sara DiMaggio’s theorizing around the pregnant subject in Anne Waldman’s First Baby Poems, proposing a question compelling enough to repeat here with some emphasis: what does poetics have to learn from the pregnant body?; from “Poetry and the Visual Arts,” Robert Dewhurst (a Buffalo Poetics grad student I look forward to hearing/reading more from) with an analysis of locality/vocality in vernacular speech in Eileen Myles’ debut Fresh Young Voice from the Plains (no doubt whittled out of the more broadly-titled paper “Rimbaud in New York: Expressionist Lyric in the 80s”); from the plenary panel with a long title (“Discrepant Engagements: Long Form and Hybrid Genres in the Writing of Nathanial Mackey, Erica Hunt, Beverly Dahlen, Anne Waldman and Robert Gluck,” with Robin Tremblay-McGaw, Kathy Lou Schultz, Kaplan Harris, Erica Kaufman read by Cathy Wagner, and Rob Halpern read by Kevin Killian), which came late in the day and it’s a shame there was neither time nor energy left for discussion, for these were several great papers that I would have liked to dwell on/in with some specificity. Robin has recently written about this panel (& the conference more generally) on her blog.

On the way to the evening keynote I was accompanied by an animate beclouded sky.

A final round of keynote readings brought Mei-mei Berssenbrugge (who had been the respondent earlier in the day in the Visual Arts panel, at which Laura Hinton had given a grand overview of her artist book collaboration with Richard Tuttle, Hiddenness—a nice primer for Mei-mei’s reading) and Nate Mackey to the stage, along with introducers, respectively, Jennifer Moxley and Aldon Nielsen. The glow and spaciousness of Mei-mei’s words; Nate’s epistolary series, From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, “fugitive texts” Robin Tremblay-McGaw had elaborated on earlier in the day (it’s nice when things come together like that to trace out common pulses and deepen engagement)—it was a fantastic reading.

The evening wound up and back down with the open bar and open readings. Again, not being the social documenter and not trying to make myself a part of history, I flitted about taking advantage of these last moments to see what people were up to and what they were all about until the bartenders packed up the bar, whence we—a small crowd then-familiar and now only partly remembered (I won’t list names because there were far more people, maybe a dozen, than those whose names I can remember) packed it on over to the dorm and situated ourselves in the first floor lounge to imbibe in talk and further libations and it was so late that more than one person decided to stay up to catch an early flight or a ride. I, being the driver, bade everyone good night, which made me a little sad, to catch some sleep.

I had hoped to have some free time en route back to Boston for a quick detour, and it was disappointing not to, but I’m glad to present to you here the marvelous sculpture of Isabelle Pellisier, which I would like to have experienced face to face. Drove back with Cathy Wagner and Adra Raine, an Orono alum who I heard read an interesting memoir-paper about reading in the 1980s. Another thing to be sorry to have missed. More companionship to be glad to have experienced.

Thus concludes My 2012 Orono.

Note: Three photos— the conference sign, the Wagner-Bywater-Russo “Feminism” panel, and the shot of Steve Evans and Carla Billitterri from behind Susan Howe and Peter Middleton—were sourced from uncopyrighted public documents. The remaining photos were taken by me.

*

Linda Russo is the author of Mirth (Chax Press) and American Heritage Syntax (Publisher Unknown) and several other chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in ecopoetics, Horse Less ReviewInterim, New American Writing, Shearsman, Summer Stock, Tinfish and elsewhere. Her essay “Precious, Rare, and Mundane” is the preface to Joanne Kyger’s About Now: Collected Poems (National Poetry Foundation). You can visit her on Facebook.

Poet Star Black’s Photos of the 80s conference

Fortunately for us, the poet and photographer Star Black was on hand for all but the last evening of the 80s conference. She has generously made a selection of her photographs available for use on this website, which we present below in slideshow and gallery format (click thumbnails to enlarge). You can find other photos by conference participants at the NPF Facebook page.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.