The 150th anniversary of Kansas statehood last month came and went with nary a whisper. (The same was true of the city of Kansas City, Missouri in 2000.) Why didn't the convention and tourism people or historical society or bars do more to celebrate? It may be that the word sesquicentennial has too many damn syllables. But Kansas certainly celebrated its straight-up centennial in a big style - 1K cake at the capitol - gala balls - beard-growing contest - and boo-koo centennial gimcracks. Granted, 100 has two zeroes and 150, only one. And the economy was a lot better in 1961 than now. But Kansasentrism is such a strong force here, that you'd think the state would throw whatever kind of a bash it could.
I remember the hoopla surrounding Memphis' 150th - parades, ceremonies, street signs showing the city limits at various points in history, even a commemorative envelope:
Coming, as it did, a year after the country's most prominent civil-rights leader had been assassinated in the city, some people saw the celebration as being in dreadfully bad taste. But I guess white Memphis needed a reason to feel good about itself - to assure itself that its history was something to celebrate. Maybe that's why they were willing to do it with only one zero.
Nothing like a pesky job to get in the way of your blogging. But the applications are read, the offers are out, the planning is underway, etc., so I can at least spare the time for a quicky post.
I was going to upload a photo of my mom's old apartment building on Cathedral Avenue in DC in the mid-50s, alongisde a photo of the same building that I took a couple of weeks ago. I was staying at a hotel in her old neighborhood - a hotel that she, my dad, and her roommates used to frequent as a watering-hole (the bar, that is). But "there was an error," so no dice. Suffice it to say the building is still there - ugly yellowish brick and all - and with sounds of jungle animals from the zoo as background soundtrack, per my dad's recollection from "then." One of her roommates had forgotten they didn't have air conditioning back then - of course: since they lived next to Rock Creek Park, they just opened the windows, and enjoyed the upwelling of the cool, oxygen-rich air welling up from the wooded gulch just below the building.
You will notice on the "marquee" above that Susan M. Schultz is going to be reading in the capital city of the great state of Kansas on the Ides of March. She is coming all the way from Hawoyer (as a North Carolina woman I used to know pronounced it), so you're a fool if you miss it. Check out her book Dementia Blog (Singing Horse 2008) to see why she is one of the most formally daring writers around. This event is part of Dennis Etzel, Jr.'s (KU MFA 2010) Top City reading series.
You will also notice that Rachel Blau DuPlessis is going to be in town - reading from poetry (presumably recent Drafts) as well as giving a lecture about same. Imagine if you'd had the opportunity to hear Charles Olson or Marianne Moore - and blew it off.
If you missed my reading at AWP, you can experience something similar, virtually, at Ben Cartwright's Kansas Blotter Project. Just sit in a really uncomfortable chair in a room with recirculated air, and it will be a facsimile of that experience.
This website is sort of a KanSound, as it were. Lots of good stuff - most recently Topeka phenom Cyrus Console reading from his latest, The Odicy (Omnidawn, forthcoming soon).
My report on AWP to a friend who wasn't there, via email. She asked if I enjoyed AWP.
"Did I enjoy AWP. Hmm. Total chaos - labyrinthine hotel - non-stop crowds going hither and thither at top speed across one another's path. Long cab rides required to reach off-site events. In other words, I think you would have hated the physical environment. I know I did. All the service workers seemed to be people of color (mostly women) from impoverished southern countries (mostly east Africa, if I had to guess) - probably making sub-minimum wage (despite the outrageous prices). And they were dealing with hordes of well-dressed white folks, so you can imagine what kind of mood they were in. It was a reminder of why I avoid conventions and conferences.
"However . . . It was good to see people I hadn't seen in a while and to meet people I knew only virtually (e.g., Hoa Nguyen - who read my tarot). The panel with Howe, Jonathan Skinner, Thalia Field, and Cole Swenson (on research-based poetics) was quite good. The readings were good - that's what I've figured out - go to the readings and skip the panels. Had a few people come by my book signing. I didn't hear any good gossip, but then I never seem to be around when people are dishing. Prob'bly just as well."
Mark Nowak gave a great talk on a panel on political/social poetics - after some rather blustery oratory by some of the other panelists. But very very brief - unlike the others, he stayed on schedule. He's an organizer, in other words.
I'm sure I will post something about the AWP in the coming days, but now I'm just playing catch-up. Pretty much the craziest, most chaotic (and one of the more expensive) conferences I've ever been to. Got to read with some really cool people whose work I already knew (Elizabeth Willis, Evie Shockley, Rae Armantrout, Mark McMorris, Grant Jenkins, Cheryl Pallant), and was introduced to some really swell poets (Lea Graham, Melody Curtis, et al.).
Just before the Wesleyan reading, I watched in horror from the podium as Susan Howe, Rae A., Rosmarie Waldrop, Anne Waldman, and C.S. Giscombe came through the doors. But it went fine - I think they liked it.
And found my mom's 1950s apartment building yesterday - with screaming jungle birds in the background, just as my dad had said.
Author of Things Come On: (an amneoir) (Wesleyan University Press’ poetry series, 2011), earth day suite (Beard of Bees Press, Dec. 2010), Of Some Sky (Bedouin, forthcoming), and Poetry and the Public (Wesleyan 2002).