Roughly translated, from my notebook:
Early morning panel: Quo Anima: Women, Spirit, and Poetic Innovation. Jennifer Phelps gave a powerpoint presentation on Mysticpoetics: Writing the Alchemical Self in Brenda Hillman's Poetry. She winnowed through the alchemical transformation process, drawing Hillman's books to each: the Fortress as decomposition, Bright Existence as separation and joining, Loose Sugar as alchemical ash, Pieces of Air in the Epic as formlessness, etcetera. Rusty Morrison gave a lovely paper on Melissa Kwasny: speaking of the manifest cipher, moving through the image rather than the known, personified spaces, on the natural world as most vital and fraught, on how Nine Senses is closely attuned to actual, which puts pressure on personal and interpretive, nature not contributive but conjunctive, and the kinship with the natural world can put pressure on 'otherness.' Andrew Schelling spoke on Joann Kyger, who "taught [him] how to live lightly on the earth." He spoke of how she is "highly spiritual, but not in a draggy way." He spoke of her three-prong spiritual path that included: 1/ animism / the old ways, where animals are no symbols or emblems or sentimental beings; 2/ interest in Buddhism, with interdependence of all forms of life and non-sentient (ecological imagination)--not an exotic form of practice; and 3/ ecology / bioregional imagination, where the poet is "detective of place," and there is use in the notebook, as a field naturalist, which becomes a tool like a yoga mat, used as meditative practice (think zhuihitsu). Laynie Brown gave a personal statement on devotion, meditation and practice, and spoke of how to describe a vantage where writing can be a meditative practice: Who am I now? self study as sacred study. She spoke of the white space, and the requiring of exiting the world of constant motion: "yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind." "Call it reading without books," that indeterminate space. Language is an oral temple, and form becomes a spatial temple. H.D.: the overmind of jellyfish consciousness. "A word is a non-place for an encounter to take place." She brought up Norma Cole's The House of Hope. Dan Beachy-Quick spoke of Susan Howe, with a concern to haunting and the spirit as breath. He spoke of the false claim of identity--and how one must listen to hear how many voices dwell in another voice. He spoke of how the poem becomes a dwelling--the arrival of the poet and the counter-arrival of ghosts--the poem as realm of gathering proximity. The rhythm: cannot speak of consent, poet is carried away in it.
Panel: Barefoot, Pregnant, and at the Writer's Desk
Katy Read, a journalist at the Star-Tribune was first to speak, and she was interested in why one ought to write about motherhood. She explored the unrealistic images in pop culture, the idea of the mother not having a life but the chaos of everyone else's lives being that life. She spoke of how journalists are to write about topics people didn't know about--why write about motherhood? She realized there were aspects of motherhood that just weren't being discussed, even privately, and she realized she felt shame--with super-moms whose children's favorite food was tofu and strangers would scold her parenting. She wrote to explore that shame.
Kate Hopper has written a book on motherhood and writing, and she discussed that process, and how she didn't really feel she was a writer until after she became a mother.
Hope Edelman spoke of how she already had a writing life before going into motherhood, so she had hoped to expand that writing. She finds there is very little separation between those two lives, and she writes in the midst, rather than at a critical distance. She spoke of herself as a night writer, and as she cannot miss crucial family time, she spoke of her binge writing habit, where she would hole up an hour's drive away and stay for two and a half days. She said her life is often feast or famine and that one or the other gets priority.
Jill McCorkle (was hilarious) said she had a draft of her first novel before her daughter was born, and after, she had to revise the mother-character. She recommended Anne Tyler's essay "Still Just Writing" and rolled her eyes at schools that would ask her to do parenting duties "since you don't work?" She spoke of how your mind becomes writing time (how I'm learning that now!) and that your mind becomes a space/office. She quipped how it was impossible to ask for writing time and have it respected, but no one minded when she had to go to the grocery store.
Note: One thing I noticed, with some of these writers, is how tricky the partners/husbands could make a situation. One mentioned how we'd be rapturous in gratitude for the half an hour our husband offered, while watching the child, and how that half an hour we'd spend just clearing our heads and then it was: Mom-my!
Panel: The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House*: Organizations Supporting Women Writers (*Audre Lorde)
Cate Marvin was the moderator on this panel, where folks from A Room of Her Own (whose Gift of Freedom is designed to give a woman two years to write), the Women's Review, Kentucky Women Writer's Conference, She Writes (an online community built on the idea of abundance), and Hedgebrooke (which was founded with the ethos of "radical hospitality"). It was a lovely panel and introduction (or reminder, for me, in most cases) to many worthy organizations that I hope to connect with my own work.
Maya developed the stomach flu in the middle of the night, so Meryl had to take over my Midway table shift, and I missed a handful of promising panels, but I was able to sneak into this one on Borderlands / Border Bodies, which was mostly a series of readings, but I did jot down some interesting thoughts: body remembers through inheritance (through cancer, as if a gift), the concept of becoming dis-membered from a family and then re-membered, poems often labled as "poetry of women" rather than a culture, women often connect their bodies to their narratives, using the body as metaphor, humanizing violence.
I caught a few images of our table before the dismantling. Seated is our fiction editor, Ralph Pennel.
And our table mates, Amanda and Melissa Wray from Hazel & Wren! (For the record, these ladies amaze me!)
Midway is hosting a Monstrosities of the Midway contest--with a $1000 prize, who wouldn't want to enter?