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Friday, October 2, 2009

A note on how Adfempo was organized/conceptualized.

from Rachel Levitsky

A note on how Adfempo was organized/conceptualized.

The conference was organized by Emily Beall, Kate Eichhorn, Laura Elrick, Tonya Foster, Laura Jaramillo, erica kaufman, Rachel Levitsky, Anna Moschovakis, Akilah Oliver, Jen Scappattone -- as the Belladonna Adfempo Collective, and Ana Bozicevic and Aiobheann Sweeney and Michael Washburn at the Center for Humanities, and Ann Humphries and Leah Souffrant at Center for the Study of Women and Society, and The Poetics Group and English PhD.

Here is a bit of chronology about the process, which seems important, coming out of the plenary. Did I not say more there because I was tired or because I want to hear, be in a conversation with. It seems most of the things folks wanted to say, they said as questions. I am paraphrasing or getting these wrong, or nearby their original intent: "What is Feminism for you?" or "Do you consider yourself Feminist poets? Why are we not talking about what that is?" "What is found in the waste?" "Is it perhaps useful to think of feminism as a wasted term?" It seems venturing out always feels like venturing out alone.

Evelyn Reilly came up and said the politics are in the way we are interacting here and I said that is intentional.

Point in fact. The project is an architectural experiment, an attempt at rearranging space, the shape between the bodies. If there is one disappointment I have it is that the sessions, which I hesitated to call panels, were in fact panels.

I imagined we could infinitely re-vision the format. Can we. I digress.

A little history to the happening. erica kaufman and I thought we should do a conference, something that could reflect the project in a concentrated kind of way, for the 10 year anniversary, and erica went and made it happen, talking to Leah Souffrant, Ann Humphries and Aoibheann Sweeney at the Graduate Center. A CFP written, a call gone out, and then receiving about 85 proposals, mixture of individuals and panels, of films, collaborations (some never getting to us, like one from Martha Ronk, who was to set out to create a combination of prose poems and photograms with Farrah Karapetian--I think we would have liked the proposal a lot, but I have not yet gotten to who this we was and how we came to be).

As the proposals came in I became very nervous about the thing, not only because it seemed large but also because the format seemed to me awfully pat, promising career development and boredom but little invention, critique, play. Not because the proposals themselves were flawed but, again, the format. When conceiving the CFP I'd imagined Esther Cohen and Bread and Roses, sharing how to do what she does making image making available to working people, and Anne Waldman and Pat Stiers talking about their work together, and a writing the body workshop with Akilah Oliver, a prose conversation with Renee Gladman and Gail Scott and Tisa Bryant. All these in my imagination had a discovery about them, an energy of emergence.

Now I must say that Emma Bee Bernstein's death affected everything. We were making a book with her and so dove into the despair of her passing. Charles' elegy and Susan's rememberance in Elders Series #4 and also her brother Felix's beautiful piece on Charles' blog... all point to the impossibility of hammering down a meaning there, in her death, and yet it did make all of us turn around. Among other ways that it shook me it woke me into knowing that erica and I could not do this conference on our own, it would be bad for us and maybe impossible too. And so we brainstormed the collective and almost everyone we asked said yes to it and so the collective was strong and it was big enough and almost diverse enough intellectually if not demographically, though our one non-poet I think felt disrespected and left, and I was sorry that was the atmosphere and sorry she left but not sorry for our suspicion in general. Left after the first meeting were those who stayed and they are: Jennifer Scappattone, Tonya Foster, Akilah Oliver, Laura Jaramillo, Laura Elrick, Emily Beall, Kate Eichhorn, Anna Moschovakis, Emily Beall and erica kaufman and I. Politically we are all rather left, some of us more queer than others of us, and some of us married and one of us a mother but in general as a group of women, having less than the mean by way of indicators of hetero-normativity and I think this says something about where we position ourselves politically too. Politically we would probably all say we were anti-racist and anti-classist but we let things become too white, too easy and tried to revise after not doing a great job of listening to the comments amongst us that things were going colonial that way. We wondered for a while about how to have a meaningful class panel when in the poetry world there is so much denial and shame about the issue. So there were some good and funny and sometimes harsh or painful exchanges and we all kept coming back.

We all read all the panels and were daunted by how to keep all the ones we liked and fit them into one day. We came up with 8 minute monographs so that not everything had to fit perfectly neatly into a title. In the interest of inclusion and mixing things up and making things more diverse, we asked people/chairs who proposed panel-ready panels to let other people onto their panels and some said yes to us and some said no to us. And we each picked a panel to shepard and some other people like Sarah Dowling and Jane Sprague and Steve Zultanski and Jen Hofer and Tamiko Beyer and Vanessa Place and Kass Fleisher agreed to be shepards to their panels and Sally Silvers said yes to perform and so did Carla Harryman and Lila Zemborain and the IDR and we were able to afford a great final performance and Laura Elrick and erica kaufman organized that. We imagined a ‘fifth’ space where less talking would happen and Angela Joosse agreed to curate a film program. And the Center for Humanities let us do all this complicated visioning and also materially made the thing real and made postcards and arranged all the access to space, along with the Center for the Study of Women and Society, Ph. D. Program in English, and Poetics Group. And there is much more to this story but tonight I will end so that words go into the world and I am responsible for them.

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