Sep 26, 2009

Advancing Feminist Poetics: Conference Highlights PART 1

Notes from the opening night (Thursday, Sept. 24):

Plenary 1, entitled, “Why You Talk Like That? Between Orature and Literature,” and chaired by the articulate Tonya Foster, offered economic-geopolitical-aesthetic insights into the most original edges of the contemporary Black Arts multi-media / poetic arts. Julie Patton, for example, described her Salon des Refusés project, an “installation” out of “waste” (I borrow that concept from Foster) in an abandoned public-space in this New York artist’s native Cleveland. Patton had made “place . . . a museum”: archival, eco-poetical – through this highly original conceptual-political piece expressing Patton’s public consciousness. (You can learn more about Patton’s project on the Oberlin College website.) Other participants included Meta DuEwa Jones, John Keene, and Evie Shockley, who spoke about writers as diverse as Zora Neale Hurston, Sonia Sanchez, and Jay Wright (whose paperback edition through the Callaloo Poetry Series is currently available through Amazon vendors for 1 cent – hurry for your copy because panelist John Keene described this 1980 work a brilliant American classic yet to receive its critical due).

Plenary 2, with another articulate poet-scholar as chair, Laura Elrick, was equally politically engaged, examining “Critical language Practices” in the context of “Imperial Event.” Ammiel Alcalay presented a very porous and provocative series of quotations from theorists of colonialism like Aime Caesar and Frantz Fanon; Rachel Zolf spoke to the problems of being a Jewish feminist writer confronting the Palestinian situation; Cathy Park Hong asked if “poetry can be an anathema against imperialism” in the context of discussing the new “English-loving” South Korea when she was there as a young journalist; and Ann Waldman brought down the house with her performance-essay in which she stated, “Poetry de-territorializes” – and also, “The body is radically non-Cartesian … it speaks to itself in a continuous feed,” and therefore body-mind-poetry-politic must never be separated.

SEE ALSO Tonya Foster's account of Night 1 of the conference on the Poetry Foundation blogsite.

Foster gives the stunning list of conference audience attendants and participants, all clustered at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. Conversation among the feminists / writers / artists / poets was indeed "hot."

-- LH
PHOTOS: ADFEMPO organizers Rachel Levitsky, Tonya Foster, and Erica Kaufman (at final Friday night Plenary panel); multi-media artist Julie Patton during the final-night performance as she layers vocals onto a dance piece by Sally Silvers -- taken by Laura Hinton

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