Saturday, May 31, 2:00-3:30 pm
Panel: Community Histories

Moderator: Camille Roy

This panel will investigate fault lines within Bay Area poetry communities of the 70s and 80s. How are group narratives constructed, rendered visible or invisible? How might these histories and narratives inform our current conversation and social space? What is the role of the archive? The academy? The economy? How might submerged or obscured conflict and aggression re-express or distribute itself elsewhere?

Panelists and Presentations:

Realism and Utopia: Writing, Sex and Activism in the New Narrative: What was at stake with the emergence of New Narrative in San Francisco during the late 1970s? Whereas Language Poetry’s rigorous critique of subject-centered expressivist poetry registers, among other things, a response to the contradictions of the early 1960s Free Speech Movement, New Narrative’s commitment to a consequential form of storytelling, one with the potential to activate new forms of community, was critically faithful to the promise of another new social movement, Gay Liberation. In his talk, Rob Halpern will consider the lived relations, embodied positions and community fault lines that mark New Narrative as an intervention in activist writing. He will look specifically at several projects from the early 1980s, including Bruce Boone’s Century of Clouds; the literary magazine Soup #2, edited by Steve Abbott; Boone and Gl├╝ck’s collaboration, La Fontaine; and the transcript of the Left/Write Conference in San Francisco. The range of work represented by these projects is exciting because it makes a dynamic and contestatory social ecology legible at a moment when efforts to forge a union of leftist writers were revealing their limitations due to incompatible visions as to how an “engaged writing” ought to be practiced.

Outlaws, Lone Wolves and Made Poets: Bay Area Poetics and Group Formation from the 70s to the Present: Who is in? Who is out? Who cares? What is the coin of the realm in the poetry world? How do we earn it? How spend it? Is there a secret spiritual history? What about politics? How do you tell if you are in a group or if your group exists? Laura Moriarty will address questions such as these by disscussing how publication, teaching, reading and one's personal and social lives come together to form the poetry world(s) we believe we are in.

Community–it’s the goo that is all over the place–facilitating and making a mess of relation, writing, and people’s access to one another, one another’s work, the world. An interest in (and an embattled relation with) community seems to have been ever a part of the discourse among writers in the San Francisco Bay Area, where from the 1970s onward this battle has been entangled in contesting identities, politics and aesthetics. The etymological and historical roots of community reveal that while community sometimes pertains to geographic location, shared interests, a relation (including a contestatory one) to a state or other government, it has very much also to do with sexuality, gender, class and race. What passes unnoticed and/or is marked as vulgar and transgressive is always revealing; implicitly community has to do with demarcations of bodies and minds that matter and those that do not. In short, community is a term fraught with political relevance from the get go. Community has to do with subjects. Community also begs the question regarding its value or purpose. What’s it for? What’s it do? What is a writing community? Is there such a thing? How does community differ from friendship? Is the writing community a nurturing place? Or does it look more like the global community, rife with competition and disparate investments and access to capital and power? How can community and communities intersect? Robin Tremblay McGaw's talk will look at some of the battles around writing occurring in the Bay Area in the 70s and 80s. We’ll look at how some of these debates were constructed and how they played out. Advance / related reading: How do the debates of this earlier period relate to some of the present day discussions around community? For example: the Stephanie Young & Juliana Spahr Chicago Review piece, and comments around it, including David Buuck's dim sum blog entry re: "I am a sexist" or comments on Kasey Mohammad’s limetree blog in September 2006, regarding Lisa Robertson's posting on friendship vs community on the Poetry Foundation web site.

More about the panelists:

Rob Halpern is the author of Rumored Place and Snow Sensitive Skin (co-authored with Taylor Brady). Two collections of poems, Disaster Suites and Music for Porn, are forthcoming, and a chapbook called "Imaginary Politics" will be out from TapRoot Editions next month. He's currently co-editing the writings of the late Frances Jaffer together with Kathleen Fraser, and translating the early essays of Georges Perec, the first of which, "For a Realist Literature," can be found in the current issue of Chicago Review. He lives and teaches in San Francisco.

Laura Moriarty's most recent books are A Semblance: Selected & New Poetry 1975-2007 from Omnidawn Publishing and An Air Force, a chapbook from Hooke Press. Other recent books are Ultravioleta, a novel, from Atelos and Self-Destruction, a book of poetry, from Post-Apollo Press. She has taught at Mills College and Naropa University among other places & is currently Deputy Director of Small Press Distribution. She is findable on-line at A Tonalist Notes and related blogs.

Robin Tremblay-McGaw's work has appeared in Poetry Flash, Mirage, Five Fingers Review, HOW(ever), HOW2, Biting the Error: Writers on Narrative, and elsewhere. She is currently at work on a manuscript entitled"Community and Contestatory Writing Practices in the San Francisco Bay Area1970-Present."

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