At both of these symposia there was an odd tension between the programming of the keynote sessions and the work being done at most of the panels, which seems from my experience to characterize ALA events more generally. In any event, there is always a lot of intriguing work going on at the ALA, as there will be in Boston in the Spring. We are fortunate to have a wide umbrella under which we can offer such diversity of aesthetics and poetics.
My own presentation this year was a portion of an essay on Denise Leveretov and Al Young, which will appear in a book being edited by Donna Hollenburg. The panel on which I appeared, The New American Poetries in Black and White, included a great paper on Rusell Atkins from Tom Jesse, and John Lowney's exciting new work on Amiri Baraka. I also chaired a panel earlier in the day discussing Contemporary Poets on Race, History, Dialogue and Ekphrasis, featuring Anne Keefe, Wesley Rothman and David Anderson. Anderson spoke on the work of Marilyn Nelson, whose reading at Penn State I had to miss in order to attend this symposium.
[Left to right: Aldon Nielsen, John Lowney, Chair Briona Jones, Tom Jesse and conference director Richard Flynn.]
[Left above: conference co-organizer Olivia Edenfield]
The conference kicked off with a poetry reading featuring faculty from Georgia Southern University, Eric Nelson and Emma Bolden. Eric, it turns out, had been active in the D.C. area poetry family back in my student days.
There was a surprise appearance of the Bad Tenors Blues Band -- You may soon be able to hear pirated recordings of the concert.