Sunday, June 22, 2008


Am I the only one who has noticed that what we have just experienced were three relatively mutually exclusive post-avant poetry conferences in this country? Mutually exclusive mostly because they occurred at the same time, mas o menos, but at least partly because they focused the idea of what the post-avant might be in such different ways. Having been to none of them, my sense of what they must have been were:

    An academic conference that focused on the poetries of 30 years ago, all still quite active & present to this day. Held at a college in the center of Maine, it was relatively difficult to get to, tho apparently quite a few folks from around the Northeast made the trek.

    An academic conference that focused on just one of the poetries of the present moment, similarly held at a geographic remove from the major urban writing centers of either coast. My impression is that this was the least well-attended of the three.

    A community-based conference held in San Francisco that sounds very much like it centered around a poetics of the aggrieved. It’s worth noting that this is the only one of the three conferences where a discussion of the relative absence of women did not ensue.

What’s missing? A flarf conference? Community-based conferences in Chicago & New York? How would the latter look like / unlike a flarf conference? Was the Naropa Summer Writing Program up & running yet? If so, what was going on there?

For all the world, this scenario sounds to me like the different conceivable aesthetic coalitions of the moment are tentatively stalking out their ground. These conferences may be the antithesis of the summer writing camps of the School of Q, manuscript & workshop-based gatherings of wannabes learning that writing means submitting to hierarchy. But for the folks who are always getting on my case about my sorting poets into this or that socially defined bucket, I wonder if anyone is really paying attention to just what is going on. Take a step back & think about it.


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