Saturday, June 08, 2013

Live from the West Chester Poetry Conference

Faculty Member Julie Kane Reads, 6/7/2013
This is guest blogger Anna M. Evans reporting live from the 19th Annual Poetry Conference, "Exploring Form & Narrative," held at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

I first discovered the West Chester Conference six years ago, and as soon as I walked into the Sykes Union building I was mesmerized, hooked, and in love. No other literary conference in the USA brings together such an eclectic gathering of like-minded poets, prepared to immerse themselves for four days in all aspects of the poetic arts (with the odd break to raise a glass of wine in honor of the Muse.)
Since Dr. Kim Bridgford took over the Directorship of the conference in August 2010, the event has grown further in terms not only of its number of panels and participants, but also in the breadth of its appeal. Panels on prosody and canonical poets such as Robert Frost rub shoulders with those having more esoteric aims such as "Libretti" and "Poetry and Religion," even as at meals and evening receptions nationally acclaimed and award-winning faculty members including Allison Joseph, Dana Gioia and Timothy Steele sit down to talk shop with attendees who range from undergraduate students to retirees, and from being enthusiastic beginners to being critically acclaimed poets themselves.
Earlier today I was thrilled to be presenting on the "Critical Seminar Report-Out" panel. The Critical Seminars, which take place at the same time as the participant workshops, demonstrate the commitment at the conference to furthering poetry scholarship. This year, alongside my own seminar on the Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project, the seminars covered James Merrill, Gwendolyn Brooks, and an exploration of Free Verse.
Saturday is the final day of this exhilarating poetry jamboree, and yet there is still much to come. I can't wait for the panel on "Invented Forms," especially since one of the panelists is the renowned Lewis Turco, and then I will line up to get my copies of all the books I have bought so far signed by the poets themselves. No downpour will dispirit the traditional afternoon picnic, even if it has to move inside. Finally, we will head to Swope Theater for a concert by Vanessa Rubin and Cyrus Chestnut.
Next year's 20th Anniversary Conference will be held from June 4-7, 2014. I urge any poets who can make the journey to West Chester to consider attending. However, if you do, you will probably need to commit yourself to this four days in June for the rest of your writing life. I know I have!

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