Over the past three days I had the great fortune of attending the literary conference Lifting Belly High: A Conference on Women's Poetry Since 1900. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. There was a point last night when Crystal and I were hugging each other and crying, we were so moved by this event and the amazing women we met there.
One of the panels I attended was a panel on Rachel Blau DuPlessis a poet and scholar who has done amazing critical work on feminist writing and is in the process of writing a long-form poem (and by long form I mean that it currently is 3 books long) called Drafts. One of the speakers at the panel talked specifically about DuPlessis' use of footnotes in Drafts, and this discussion has only further excited me in my reading of this body of work. Drafts is far from the easiest poem I have ever read, but is clearly layered in ways that I am enjoying discovering.
I also got to meet Dr. DuPlessis while at the conference. I hope I didn't gush too embarrassingly.
The panel Fairytales and Epics was also fascinating. I am very interested in how women writers utilize myth, folklore, epic, fairytale, and religion in our poetry -- some of my favorite poet friends do this in their writing, and I always love seeing the way that they look at the myth - as Dr. DuPlessis said, "criticism becomes the heart of the myth." It says a lot about us as people and as women, how we reinvent the mythology we have received.
I got the chance to talk to two of the panelists after the panel; Julie Weeks, a scholar from Notre Dame who studies fairytale, primarily in British women's poetry and who had some really good ideas regarding my research which I am itching to take a look at, and Claudia Emerson, one of my poet heroes. Julie came out for tea with Crystal and me and we talked about Romania. It was lovely.
There was a roundtable of Feminist Presses that I also attended. It ended up being one of the most encouraging parts of the conference for me (though there were many of those!) because every single one of the panelists talked about how community building is important to them and they consider it part of their duty as a feminist press. This is one of the principals Laura and I founded Weave on, which, by virtue of our commitment to having at least 50% of our contributor list be female and the mere fact the Laura and I are female, I consider to be feminist.
One of the biggest highlights of the conference for me was getting to meet Judith Johnson, an amazing poet and performer, and also the editor and founder of 13th Moon. I can't think of any other way to say this -- I love Judith Johnson. She's warm and intelligent and fiery and truly works to empower women through her writing and publishing efforts. I hope I get to spend time with her again.
The only downside to the conference was the almost complete homogeneity of the participants. I would say 80-85% of us were white women, and then there was an even split on the other 15% of men and women of color. There has been a lot of talk already of how this can be changed. It was really nice to see this shortcoming acknowledged and to actually talk about ways to remedy it. Hopefully we will act on these ideas.
I could go on and on, and may in an additional entry, but I wanted to get all of this written out while it was still fresh in my mind. I've been so excited and so nervous over the past few days that I have had difficulty eating, and now I'm heading out to Windber with Phat Man Dee for Blair and Renee's baby shower!!