Sunday, April 13, 2008



The annual conference of the College Language Association happens also to mark the anniversary of this blog. I started the HEATSTRINGS blog from a hotel room in Birmingham, Alabama, during CLA two years ago.

This year's meeting was held in Charleston, South Carolina, at the Francis Marion Hotel -- And yes, that did mean eating some meals in the SWAMP FOX cafe (I would go for the crab soup if I were you.)

The conference offered the usual opportunities to catch up with friends, including Jerry Ward, Akiba Harper, Warren Carson, Howard Rambsy, Dana Williams, Dolan Hubbard, Maryemma Graham, Joanne Gabbin, Daryl Dickson Carr and so many others -- I even ran into Rosemary Feal, from the MLA, who was down South to participate in a panel.

This year's banquet speaker was novelist Charles Johnson, who read from MIDDLE PASSAGE and took questions from the floor. (Have to admit that a neo-slave narrative can make for an odd accompaniment to banqueting, but, as you can hear, we were all in good humor.)

The 2008 conference, as in years past, gave me a chance to hear from sharp young critics just starting out on their university careers.

And Kevin Powell, scheduled speaker for the Langston Hughes Society luncheon, turns out to be running for congress.

But the one thing missing from these photos may have been the best thing of the year. I didn't take my recorder to the big reception, at which Powell made his campaign speech/lit crit commentary, and I've been kicking myself ever since. The reception was hosted by the College of Charleston and their gospel choir performed a stunning version of "Wasn't That A Big Old Storm?" -- They had a tonality to the chorus that was strikingly different from what I grew up hearing in churches "upsouth" and we all were pained to find that they were only scheduled to give us the one song.

Next year's conference will be in Cambridge, Maryland -- Click here for the link to the Association's web site.


Anonymous said...

Happy anniversary to HeatStrings! Good seeing you at CLA. --Howard

Daniel Todd said...

Mr. Nielsen,

Tyrone Williams suggested I get in touch with you via HeatStrings.

Having recently read Black Chant and Every Goodbye Ain't Gone, I wanted first to thank you for these contributions, which have both moved me in ways I can't describe. I wish I had found them on my own, of course, but admit I have recently taken a class with Dr. Williams at Xavier University in which these texts were assigned, among others. In any case, I am glad I found them.

I was also wondering if you might put me in touch (via email or snail) with Elouise Loftin, whom I would like to solicit for the poetry review Smartish Pace (, which I edit for. If not, no worries, but I thought I might ask. Would you also considering sending some of your own work?

Thanks again. As you know, as I am sure you have been told, you are doing fine work, and this young reader in Cincinnati appreciates it!

All best,
Daniel Todd