Thursday, June 05, 2014

A Little West Chester Magic

Tom Cable, the Prosody Guy
Yesterday morning, as I surveyed the audience for my panel, "Making New Sonnets in the Tradition," (chaired by James Matthew Wilson and featuring Ernie Hilbert and David Rothman) I thought to myself not for the first time that there is something magical about the West Chester Poetry Conference. It was 9 a.m. and many of the conference attendees (who hail this year from "4 countries and over 20 states" as Director Kim Bridgford noted in her opening remarks at last night's banquet) had either arrived late the previous night or earlier that same morning. Yet there so many of them were, familiar and new faces alike, eager to hear what the four of us had to say about the contemporary sonnet form.
I felt the same touch of magic at lunch with Dick Davis and Tim Steele, when during a discussion on Christina Rossetti both men agreed that their favorite poem of hers was "A Pause of Thought." I asked if either of them could recite the poem, and Dick replied that he could if someone would provide the first line. "I looked for that which is not, nor can be," offered Tim, and the two of them, with the occasional pause for thought, went on to recite the entire beautiful poem between them.
After lunch I attended the panel entitled "A Poet's Field Guide, Part II," delivered by Tom Cable & Natalie Gerber, where I snapped the above picture. I don't need to tell you about the magic in that! If you think that there is anywhere else in the world where you would see the above slide projected before a large public audience outside of the classroom, then I challenge you to show me it.
This West Chester conference is particularly special, of course, because it is the twentieth anniversary of the founding in 1994 by Mike Peich and Dana Gioia, who were duly honored and feted at the banquet with gifts, speeches, and even a poem.
Finally, after a long but satisfying day, it was time to head over to the Swope Music building to listen to keynote speaker, Natasha Trethewey. The packed audience was privileged to hear the Pulitzer prize-winning current Poet Laureate speak and share her work--honest, searing and thought-provoking--for forty-five minutes.
Not surprisingly, we were totally spellbound.

1 comment:

  1. "Making New Sonnets in the Tradition" -- oh, how I wish I had been there to share in the celebration of the traditional sonnet form. (I confess to being an unrepentant retired teacher of literature in the tradition of New Criticism and an ultra-conservative about poetic forms.) But, alas, as I am chained to the Redneck Riviera -- so far away from West Chester -- I must remain shackled by geography. BTW, welcome to Frank's blog. He is a first-class gentleman of distinction. (Do not blush, Frank.) I look forward to your postings. I can then at least vicariously count myself as present at the conference.