Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I somehow always forget that when the American Literature Association convenes in Boston every two years, we share the city with the Boston Anime Festival, which is an annual event supervised by the (I'm not kidding) New England Anime Society. I'm sure they regard our regard for poetry rather the way I regard their costumes.  It's only when I encounter the space animeese in the mall that I remember we share this space.

This year the African American Literature and Culture Society was celebrating its twentieth anniversary, and I was part of a retrospective panel of former society presidents.  For my part, I looked back to the very first ALA in San Diego, at which the Langston Hughes Society was the only member of the ALA coalition devoted to a black author.  We've come the proverbial long way, and now nearly every time slot of the four day conference (we outlast the Anime!) presents opportunities to discuss African American literature and poetics.  Among the highlights this year: an incredible paper by Margo Crawford that turned out to counter in advance a defense of Kenneth Warren's What Was African American Literature (making many of the same logical errors as Warren's book) later in the conference; AND an entire panel devoted to Ethelbert Miller's year-long E Channel experiment in which he interviewed Clarence Major every day for a year. -- Had a long lunch with Ethelbert later and got caught up on D.C. and Poet Lore. -- This year's Stephen Henderson Award went to poet Michael S. Harper.  (If you haven't already, read his extended recent work Use Trouble, perhaps the most "out" work of his career; Harper has stepped up his phrasal mode still farther.) Harper wasn't able to attend, due to health issues, and Herman Beavers, originally slated just to do the introduction, gave a partially improvised talk/reading that was one of the best things I've heard him do over the years. The reception, as always, as my students still say for some reason, rocked.

ALA returns to D.C. next year -- Watch for the call for papers next Fall.

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