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Women & Conceptual Poetics

This May the University of Arizona Poetry Center hosted the Conceptual Poetics Symposium: Conceptual Poetry and its Others. The conference was charged, to say the least. It was at times heated and at others hilarious. A lot of exciting discussions were had, ranging from translation to collaboration and of course, querying just what is conceptual poetics today. Thankfully, the Poetry Center has made most of the conference available online via video, audio, and papers.

The conference included many women of conceptual/experimental/non-traditional/insert-phrase-of-choice-here poetics today, including: Tracie Morris, Caroline Bergvall, Vanessa Place, Cole Swenson, Laynie Brown, Marie Smart, Linda Reinfeld, Barbara Cole, Graca Capinha, and was moderated by Marjorie Perloff.

At the very last roundtable discussion on the very last day of the conference, Laynie Brown sent sparks flying with her question, "Why are women virtually excluded from the UBU web anthology?" and her composited response of over 50 poets, read by Vanessa Place:

"Foolishness. I’d say this is the most important question. Does UBU skew towards men? Mangle, Mill, Bucket, male revisionist history? Might have something to do with “Avante Guard” being a military term. Gender being another unfortunate noun. Why write women out? Mayer, Retallack, Bergvall, Osman, Spahr, Mullen. For the same reason the hostility toward a diversity course requirement at my University is not directed toward “race and ethnic studies” but toward “gender studies.” Ties into so many other kinds of nefarious discrediting. Who the fuck thinks it’s ok?. Men are much more attached to clubs. Dewflap. One might ask why the list is so poozle-white. There were no women in the “conceptual” age."

The video of the roundtable shows each panelist's presentation as well as the Q&A following, which becomes largely concerned with Laynie Brown's above question, beginning with Marjorie Perloff's attack of both the question and response, and including both Craig Dworkin's defense of his anthology, and Vanessa Place's response. All responses were diverse and heated, and beg a continuing discussion.

The discussion has been continued in a number of venues. Sadly, Kenneth Goldsmith's "Live Blog" of the conference was not one of them. Vanessa Place of Les Figues press however, did comment on her blog. Check out part one and part two, and please, keep the discussion going.


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