Wednesday, January 21, 2015

MLA - Vancouver - 2015

I've always wanted to visit Vancouver, not only because of the testaments to its beauty I'd heard over the years from Stan Brakhage and others, but because of its crucial place in the geographies of the New American Poetries of the last century. I'll have to plan a return visit to follow up on those attractions, though, because aside from the few times I was able to get to MLA panels, I was in a hotel suite interviewing candidates for a position at Penn State. The first sight greeting me as I approached the convention center made me question my sight, a seemingly pixilated whale rising from the water. 

The conference proper started off for me with the panel on Modernism, Harlem, and the Paradox of Memory. Then came what was for me, with my limited ability to attend panels, perhaps the highlight of the week, the session on Rethinking Postslavery Consciousness. My own roundtable came the next morning, a co-sponsored session on Amiri Baraka's essays, that reunited me with Billy Joe Harris, Margo Crawford and Jeremy Glick, and introduced me to the exciting work of Simon Abramowitsch. We were chaired by Brian Norman, representing the Division on Nonfiction Prose Studies, and, representing the Division on Black American Literature and Culture, my dear friend from Howard University, Dana Williams.

Another treat, a session on Twentieth Century American Literature and Sound Recording, in the course of which I finally heard a recording of the Town Hall concert joining Ree Dragonette and Eric Dolphy that I had been searching for over the past two decades.

I was sorry not to be able to get to more of the poetry panels, but I did catch a great session on The New York School and elegy, and just before leaving town I joined a small band of Sunday early risers for an excellent session on Steve McCaffery. Appranetly there was a nearly secret off site reading Saturday night, which I only learned of late Friday despite having made copious inquiries. I gather it went well, and only wish more of us out of towners could have known of it and attended. That disappointment was more than offset by the discovery that the good people at the Small Press Distributing booth were giving away books for free. I snagged a gorgeous new book by Lisa Jarnot.

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