Sunday, March 11, 2018

AWP Reading: Letters to the Future: Black WOMEN/Radical WRITING + Poem: Evie Shockley

I'm back from a few days at this year's annual Associated Writing Programs (AWP) conference, which was held over the last week in an unseasonably cool Tampa, Florida. AWP has grown considerably since I first attended it years ago, with several generations of new writers and students now attending, and though I find the sheer number of people and events overwhelming at times, I once again found it an enjoyable and invigorating event to attend since it provides an opportunity to see so many friends that I otherwise would not run into, and meet, hear and learn about the work of so many writers I was not already familiar with, or only knew in print and not in person. C joined me, and we had a great time over all.

R. Erica Doyle
I participated on two panels, one that I moderated, titled "Translating Blackness," sparked in part by my 2016 Poetry Foundation essay. It included translators and authors Aaron Coleman, Kristin Dykstra, Tiffany Higgins, and Lawrence Schimel; the second focused on style, and included Christian Kiefer (organizer and moderator), Caroline Casey, Kim O'Neill, and Christine Schutt. Both were full houses, I was happy to see, and I plan to post my notes for the second within the next few days. In lieu of the kinds of reports I've posted on this blog in the past, I thought I'd feature a few photos, and poem, from one of the events I attended, a reading and pre-launch of the forthcoming must-read anthology Letters to the Future: Black WOMEN/Radical WRITING, edited by Erica Hunt and Dawn Lundy Martin, and on bookshelves in June from Kore Press.

L-r: Ruth Ellen Kocher, Dawn Lundy
Martin, and Erica Hunt

According to its description on Kore Press's site, the collection

celebrates temporal, spatial, formal, and linguistically innovative literature. The anthology will collect late-modern and contemporary work by Black women from the United States, England, Canada, and the Caribbean—work that challenges readers to participate in meaning making. Because one contextual framework for the collection is “art as a form of epistemology,” we envision the writing in the anthology will be the kind of work driven by the writer’s desire to radically present, uncovering what she knows and does not know, as well as critically addressing the future.
It continues:

This anthology will help re-write the misnomer that innovative writing is white writing and do it with a particularly interest in gender. Is it a coincidence that #blacklivesmatter was coined and put into action by black queer women in the same moment that there is a proliferation of black women writing experimental work? We don’t think so. This anthology is part of our means of investigation, or of simply looking at, what we are doing together to re-write the future world as unfamiliar. Indeed, it is the familiar, the well-worn racial and racist past that is killing us.
The audience
The reading, on International Women's Day, took place at the Floridan Palace hotel, in downtown Tampa, and featured a handful of writers whose work appears in the collection, including LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, R. Erica Doyle, Duriel Harris, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Tracie Morris, Evie Shockley, and giovanni singleton. Given this lineup, every poet's performance sparkled, and made a very strong case for getting a copy of the anthology, which will be perfect not just for reading from cover to cover, but in a wide array of courses.

Dawn Lundy Martin and Evie Shockley reading
Below is one of my Rutgers colleague Evie Shockley's poems, "What's Not to Liken," from the anthology, which I found especially moving, and a few photos from the event. The poem also appears in Evie's most recent collection, semiautomatic, Wesleyan University Press, 2017. This is one poetry collection you definitely want to add to your bookshelf; it is fantastic! You can pre-order the anthology at Kore Press's site, or via Small Press Distributors.

Copyright © Evie Shockley, from semiautomatic,
Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2017

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