Tuesday, July 03, 2012

National Poetry Foundation at U of Maine - Poetry of the 1980s

This year's gathering in Orono began with a reception and the screening of selections from a film in progress by Konrad Steiner that has as its soundtrack the voice of Leslie Scalapino reading from Way.  It was deeply moving to hear Leslie's voice again, so very much alive.

The first morning began for me with a panel on the works of Clark Coolidge. Tom Orange, and thus his saxophone as well, was unable to make the trip in the end, but Brooks Lampe and Kristen Tapson Widenhofer delivered careful considerations of The Crystal Text and Solution Passage, both of which I had, as it happens, reviewed in the 80s.

 One of the best attended sessions was a panel on "Post-Generic Writing in the 1980s."  The term "post-generic" strikes me as an empty signifier, but the papers themselves, by Stephen Fredman, Kaplan Harris and Peter Middleton gave me a lot to wrestle with in my post-conference thinking.  I don't believe I'd seen Peter Middleton, a wonderful poet and critic, since the last Orono conference, so he and his work were a more than usually welcome sight.

The first plenary session, on the Poetry Project at Saint Marks, was surprisingly sparsely attended.  Maybe people thought they already knew this story?  To this day, I've never been to the Poetry Project, so it has remained something of a legend to me.  It was good to hear about it from participant observers.

The first evening's keynotes were poetry readings by Susan Howe and Charles Bernstein, who established a pattern among the conference readers of dipping back into their 80s work before moving with us to new poems.  I followed their example in our Poetry Performance event and read only from poems I'd published in the 80s.

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