The West Chester Poetry Conference 2016 will take place from June 8 to June 11, 2016, or so we were told in an email which seemed stunningly oblivious to any possible sense of ill-feeling among its recipients. Meanwhile the Poetry by the Sea Conference is confirmed for May 24 to May 28, 2016. If you have the time, the money, and the inclination, you can go to both. Unfortunately, most of us are constrained by at least one of those factors. My own inclination is NOT to darken the doors of the West Chester Poetry Conference 2016, 2017 or any other year; nevertheless, I’ll try to compare what you can expect from the two conferences.
West Chester Poetry Conference 2016
The West Chester University Poetry Center website simply says, “More details coming soon.” The email tells us that “Ann Mascherino…was appointed in March 2015 as the College of Arts & Sciences Outreach Business Manager” and that they “hope to soon appoint an Artistic Director” of the West Chester Poetry Conference 2016 — here’s the job advertisement for the position posted on July 15, 2015. Apart from that, all we know for sure is that Pat Valdata and Jeff Hardin, the deserving winners of the Donald Justice Prize “will be honored publicly” at the West Chester Poetry Conference 2016. What else can we extrapolate from previous conferences and the events of last fall? We know what the accommodation and the food are like, but it’s difficult to get a sense for the direction in which this conference will go. There isn’t a single named poet currently associated with the 2016 conference, not even the keynote, and nothing has been said about poetry at all. I think it’s also fair to say not only that a number of previous attendees and faculty will boycott the conference on principle because of how Kim was treated, but also that the demographic of these boycotters will be skewed younger, more female, and more non-white when compared to the non-boycotters. In other words the conference faculty and participants will likely return to its 1994 base of older, white men.
Poetry by the Sea 2016
If you attended Poetry by the Sea 2015 you already have a very good idea what next year’s conference will be like, although you can rest assured that there will also be changes reflecting feedback that the Board have received.
If you weren’t able to attend then you can get a fair idea by reading my own blog post or that by Marsha Bryant, or by perusing the Poetry by the Sea website. Plus you can page through the photo album to get a sense of the glorious beach setting.
Some confirmed speakers for Poetry by the Sea 2016 include our second keynote speaker, Kimiko Hahn, and X. J. Kennedy who will give a spotlight reading as well as participate in a panel on Humorous Song. Alex Pepple will be on a book publishing panel; Julie Kane will chair a panel on Poetry & Cognition, and Marilyn Nelson, a Young Adult panel. New books featured include The Dark Lord of the Tiki Bar by Quincy R. Lehr. Some confirmed returning faculty include Steven Schneider, Jehanne Dubrow, A.E. Stallings, Dick Davis, Tom Cable, Rafael Campo, and Patricia Smith.
You know me, and you know the role I played in defending Kim last fall, and in putting the conference together. Of course I’m biased! But you also know I’m passionate about poetry and committed to diversity and equality, like Kim Bridgford, and like Poetry by the Sea. The West Chester Poetry Conference 2016, on the other hand, is likely to be committed to regaining the out-dated status quo that Kim unsettled.
Online registration for Poetry by the Sea 2016 will begin mid-December.
Quincy R. Lehr
I suspect you underestimate many of the the older white men, many of whom haven’t been too happy about the turn of events, either. Plus, as you note, it’s anyone’s guess what the 2016 WCU Conference will look like, as no poet’s name was attached to the official pronouncement, and long-time faculty seem to know no more than I do.
I hope I’m not underestimating the older white men. I would love it if they reached out to the Poetry by the Sea Board and asked for a role at Poetry by the Sea, even if it’s just a panel proposal that meant they had to pay to attend. I want the best gathering of our people that can happen!
David M. Katz
“That is no country for old men”? As a right-minded old(er) white man, I would like to speak up for my race, Anna. There are legions of us, good and true, who support Poetry by the Sea!
Of course, David! No one has been more supportive than you and Linda! Demographics are simply a form of statistics. But it is stimulating to have a mix of demographics at a conference, rather than predominantly one.
David M. Katz
The job description for the “Artistic Director” of the new West Chester Poetry Conference is a bit odd. For one thing, the “Artistic Director” will only be in residence on the West Chester campus during the week of the conference and for three three-day stints at other times during the year. Also, I wonder if the Advisory Board is the identical Advisory Board as always, with the same members as before. Is it still active now? Does it meet?
Yes the part time nature of the Artistic Director had not escaped me. I believe many of the board members are the same, including the wealthy but controlling Spencers.