On Saturday morning the conference moved from the Orono campus to the Colby College Museum of Art, where there were exhibitions by Alex Katz and Joe Brainard, and plenary readings by Bernadette Mayer and Clark Coolidge, as well as a gallery talk by Ann Lauterbach on Joe Brainard's Nancy works. Mayer and Coolidge have both been closely associated with the "New York School of Poetry" and "Language Poetry," both of them having appeared in An Anthology of New York Poets (1970) and In the American Tree (1986), seminal anthologies representing the two "movements" respectively (the latter published by the National Poetry Foundation, incidentally). I don't imagine that any school or movement in the world of alternative poetry would not want either of these two poets to be associated with them, such are their achievements and their reputations. Their readings befitted their status. It was a great treat to hear them.
I didn't get to really see the Alex Katz exhibition. As always at this conference, there was much more offered than one had time to enjoy. I did view the Joe Brainard exhibition. I've been a Brainard fan forever and a fan of Nancy since Terry Winch turned me on to Ernie Bushmuller long, long ago. Not for nothing did the second issue of Dog City have Nancy on its cover, shown via power-point by Joan Retallack during the DC poets panel. Ann Lauterbach's gallery talk was a tender and moving reminiscence, as well as a finely detailed account of the Nancy works. It was another very memorable moment.
Keith Tuma and Kit Robinson
(+ Clark Coolidge right)
photograph by Diane Tuma
Where could one go from here? Exhausted and energized at the same time, I went to the 4:30 plenary panel, Queering the 70's, to hear Dodie Bellamy ("The Feminist Writers' Guild"), Kevin Killian ("John Wieners' Transvestite Passion") and Eileen Myles ("Queerness, Perforamance and Prose").
at the Queering the '70s reading
photograph by Tom Orange
The last event I attended was the 8:00 p.m. plenary poetry reading at Minsky Recital Hall. No one has more gravitas than Tom Raworth. No one is more admired and respected. No one is more intense as a reader. No one has sharper wit or greater social relevance. His reading of Writing was really pretty good. Yes it was. Writing would have to be on any list of brilliantworks of the 1970s, and this might have been its definitive reading.
photograph by Tom Orange
But that was a tribute to the value of the conference. To paraphrase dialogue from the end of a less than spectacular Howard Hawks movie, when one character asked another if he thought history would remember something, another replied, "I know I'll never forget it."