Monday, April 15, 2019

CLA 2019 - Raleigh, North Carolina

Always a bit concerned about Research Triangle --  sounds like a mysterious place where research vanishes from the radar, never to be seen again.

Yet all was well at this year's conference of the College Language Association, and nobody vanished. There was one problem, though. My camera lens picked up a few water spots in the rain, for which I apologize.  Also completely forgot to hand off my camera to somebody to get a picture of the panel I was on, but Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper was there to snap a shot of my Amiri Baraka Tee shirt. This was my second year on the CLA Journal Essay Award committee, and I was truly pleased with the results.  I won't tell you about that in today's blog, though, because even though the author was recognized in absentia at the banquet, she doesn't yet know she is the winner. Watch FaceBook for that announcement.

Saturday, April 06, 2019


I don't believe I've been in a room with this many poets since the last time Philadelphia hosted an MLA off-site reading.  This was every bit as joyous an occasion.

Now you have to understand; Charles Bernstein is six months older than I am, something for which I have never forgiven him.  When he and I were both 12 years old, Stevie Wonder, also 12 years old, had a hit record. I remember Stevie was on TV performing that hit, Fingertips Part 2, when my sister gave me a look as if to say, "where's your hit record, smarty pants."  Some years later, I'm minding my own business, reading Bernstein's first book, when my sister gives me that same look again. And now I mention that Charles is retiring, and . . .  well, you know.

Now, we both wear hats -- a lot of hats -- but given that I am so much younger than Charles, I've taken to leaving my fedora at home and sporting a cap in public.

But we were all herded together at Kelly Writers House by the perpetually organized and happy Al Filreis (the other Kelly professor of poetry in Pennsylvania), for the purpose of celebrating the aged one's birthday and taking note of his retiring from Penn (that other university with "Penn" in its name).

We found almost uncountable ways to say "well done, maestro," and there was cake and barbeque and a tee shirt -- and a Charles Bernstein Mixtape, which is actually not a tape at all but a book, and a book whose title rather dates all of us, doesn't it.

All under the watchful eye of the watchers, of course.  Every inch of this is likely to wind up on Penn Sound before you know it, so that all of you who were not in Philadelphia that night can have almost as much fun, to the extent that it's possible to have fun without barbeque and cake and a fedora.

So here are any number of toasts to Charles Bernstein, who sets a horrible example for me by retiring.  He'll be writing to each and every one of us daily, thank the lord.