Monday, March 21, 2016

What's Up With Me

March has been a very busy month.  In fact, this whole year has been a time of changes.  Maya has just made her move into her Green St. house in Philadelphia, Eli is finishing up on the house that he is “flipping” in Baltimore, Maura is awaiting word about her upcoming surgery and getting her first taste of motherhood with Daisie, Melissa is settling in to life in University Place, and Pat’s family has recently returned from a winter vacation at Kalahari in the Poconos.  Given all of these changes in the family, it has taken no effort for me to fly under the radar, particularly when any mention of poetry tends to make everyone’s eyes glaze over.  I do have a few things coming up, though, and events that aren’t heard about much tend to congeal into one indistinguishable lump, I thought that I would just mention what I’m up to in the next month or so as a point of reference.

As a matter of fact, things began for me this past weekend when I attended the neMLA conference in Hartford, Connecticut.  NeMLA stands for the Northeast branch of the Modern Language Association.  It is an organization for teachers and scholars who are involved with language, English and literature.  The conference went from Thursday to Sunday, but I was part of a panel on Disability and Poetry that took place on Saturday afternoon, so I drove up Friday and then came back Saturday after the presentation. There were four people on the panel and we each had to present a paper.  Mine was on the new forms that disability poetry can take.  I believe that I was the only one in the whole convention not attached to a college or university, but despite that I think it went pretty well.  The only downside was that our audience was small because, rather unbelievably, they split up the possible audience of those interested in disability studies by scheduling another event on disability literature at the same time. 

The next event that I am involved in is the AWP or Associated Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Los Angeles that runs from March 30-April 2.  It is a huge organization, probably the biggest writers’ conference in the country.  I have been parts of panels several times before, but I have a different role this year.  The conference has a huge room dedicated solely to vendors selling books.  One of the problems is that there has not been a big representation of work by writers with disabilities. In fact, trying to find work by a writer with a disability is a needle in a haystack process. As a result, this year I joined in with several other editors of small literary magazines to form the Disabilities Literature Consortium.  We were able to raise the funds to have a booth at AWP that exhibits and sells nothing but the work of writers with disabilities or disability-related writing.  Naturally, we will all have out some information about our journals as well. So rather than actually attending the panels, I will be behind the booth most of the time. It has been exciting to collect the books of all the various writers. As part of the Dis Lit Booth, we will also be holding a reading of disability literature at a nearby venue off site. I've been trying to help promote everything through the Dis Lit website and blog. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

I’ve also gotten pulled into another role at AWP.  For some unfathomable reason, all of the panels that had anything to do with disability were rejected this year by AWP.  As you can image, that did not over well in the disabilities community. What happened was the formation of something called the Disabilities Caucus, which was able to get on to the AWP schedule.  This was not something I was originally part of but kind of got pulled into and ended up on the advisory board, so one night we will be holding the caucus. Not having a disability myself, though, I’m more or less staying in the background.

One of the most exciting things about going out for AWP is that I get to see my family in California.  I will be staying with Pat and Rose the night that I come in and hope to see Dave and Mary, too. I'm (hopefully) hitching a ride up to the conference with another member of the consortium who lives in Santa Ana. Since I will be up in LA, I won’t have much time to visit family as 'd like, but some time is definitely better than none.

Then in mid-April comes the final event that I am involved in. This one will be a reading at Split this Rock Festival  in Washington, DC.  STR is a large multi-cultural festival composed of writers who are advocating for social change.  I am one of four on the panel and will probably be reading some of the work from Wordgathering, but have not had the chance to give  a lot of thought yet.  The festival goes on for several days, but I will just drive down for the day.

That is the last of my “poetry month” events, but I did just get an email from Cinco Puntos Press, that the galleys for the new anthology of disability short stories that I am editing with Sheila Black and Annabelle Hayse is ready for us to review.  The book will be called The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked and is a really great collection of work. Technically, it is not due to be out until fall, but Cinco Puntos just sent me a picture of the cover and I am going to have post cards of it to put out at AWP.  The cover is great.  I’ll send everyone in the family a copy when it does.  It may be a little more interesting to you than Beauty is a Verb was since this is fiction rather than poetry.

Naturally, I am still working on Wordgathering as well. Last week I got the news that one of the poetry editors who works with me on the journal died unexpectedly. It was a bit of a shock.  I will read a couple of her poems as a tribute when we do the reading at AWP, and also do something about her writing when the next issue comes out in June.  Putting out Wordgathering is pretty time and labor intensive and there is no monetary support, so don’t know how long I will continue, but I am keeping it up for now.

Well, that’s enough me.  I know that when I have referred to something that I am doing in an email or conversation that it is kind of meaningless out of context, so just thought I would list what is going on with me so that if you hear me mention anything it makes a bit more sense.  My intention when I began Northen News was to help keep up on anything that was going on in the family. I haven’teen too good on keeping up with it lately but if anyone out there wants to post their own pieces on the blog, please do or send them to me and I will post them for you.