Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture after 1900 -- Feb. 2018

Back to Louisville, to speak of Amiri Baraka once again, to meet up with old friends, to hear poets and scholars I've only read without meeting in the past, to argue pork pie hats and line breaks . . .

Proof of penguins was available -- M. NourbeSe Philip befriended one of them.

The chief creative keynote this year was Philip's performance from Zong! This was already an aural performance back when she was delivering it from behind a podium.  Over the years it has evolved into a theater-roaming manifestation.

I've been reading Nathaniel Tarn since I was around 19 -- as he nears 80 I hear him at last -- Reading with Janet Rodney from Alashka, now back in print.

The closing keynote, by Brent Hayes Edwards, brought us back to the era of the Black Artists Group of Saint Louis, and their seldom seen scene film Sweet Willie Rollbar's Orientation. In his book BAG: Point from which Creation Begins, Benjamin Looker argued that the film "aimed for a contrast with the ideological and aesthetic severity of much Black Arts production."  "Much" is the key here.  There was plenty of humor amidst the severity, witness Baraka's Jello

Recommended music for those of you interested: Oliver Lake's Ntu -- The Point from which Creation Begins.

But then the storms came. Nathaniel Mackey, Jeanne Heuving and I set out with Tyrone Williams for the conference-closing party at Alan Golding's house that we'd all looked forward to, but coming to streets with new rivers flowing through their intersections we turned back to the hotel, where we met up with gnostics, experts in hat manufacture and refugee poets.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


No mass poetry reading this year, but there were many highlights sparkling in the cold of polar vortex New York.  My own contributions were both presentations on Amiri Baraka.  In a first day panel, I joined with the Beat Writers Association to talk about Baraka and the journal Kulchur in 1963.  Two days later, I was on a Baraka round table with Jean-Philippe Marcoux, Kathy Lou Schultz and Billy Joe Harris (yes, we all appear with three names each). The round table was devoted to Baraka and the city of New York.  I offered remarks on Baraka's engagements with literary magazine culture, Kathy Lou addressed the novel 6 Persons, and Billy Joe addressed Baraka's address, 27 Cooper Square. Despite weather and flight cancellations, we had a good turnout for our sessions.

One landmark for me: an entire panel on C.L.R. James.  I hope this is a sign of more attention to James in future MLA conventions.

Not a food studies session; we were at Fogo da Chao for dinner.