Sunday, October 30, 2016


Our series of conferences continued this past week with a program of panels and keynotes, poets and scholars, that more than lived up to the reputation the event has garnered over the years. The incomparable Shirley Moody Turner really pulled together an amazing range of work for us, "live editing" we might call it.

The high points of the panels were too many to list in a blog, so I'll just mention the plenary sessions here and let the photos tell you the rest. Things kicked off with a keynote from Mary Helen Washingon, whose work on revising mid-century literary histories continues to provide fresh insights.

The second plenary was another of our What I Say panels, featuring work from the anthology as well as new works by the poets. This was a homecoming for Pia Deas, a Penn State PhD, whose chapbook Cargo is one you really do need to read. It was practically a homecoming for Evie Shockley, given how often we have been blessed to have her here. And Mendi Obadike seemed quite at home. A powerful set of readings.

That evening wound up with Mendi + Keith Obadike offering the audience a guided tour of their recent projects and installations. 

Saturday morning my colleague Keith Gilyard introduced Carmen Kynard, whose keynote on using digital technology in the composition classroom included a surprise shout out for Anna Everett. Keeping with the pattern from the first day, that was followed by a poetry reading hosted by Gabe Green. This was another homecoming event, as one of the featured poets was PSU grad Will Langford. He was followed by Mahgony Browne, who had driven all the way from New York that morning to be there early.

Our closing keynote was a reading from his book Counternarratives by John Keene. I'd first met John at a conference back in 1994, the first Furious Flower conference at Madison University. John came over and introduced himself to me as the person who had edited my recent essay in Callaloo, but I already knew him from his poetry. John read a short piece reimagining the last days of Bob Cole, the composer, with J. Rosamond Johnson, of so many show tunes. Keene's piece got started when he discovered Cole was the composer of the song from Meet Me in Saint Louis we see in the cakewalk scene.

This was no cakewalk, but we did close out with a champagne toast and torts. And I did leave with a singing in my ears.

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