Happening upon Matisse's Jazz cutouts at Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington
the old magician
on a sax
Happening on Jazz was but one of the many happy incidents in Bloomington. The annual ALSCW conference ended last night with a banquet in the beautiful Tudor Room in Indiana Memorial Union, where the conference took place. The eating was followed by readings from the association's journal Literary Imagination. Jim McGregor paid a lovely tribute to his wife Sallie Spence, the founding editor of the journal, by reading a poem by Mark Strand published in the very first issue. Sallie read a poem by the Meringoff prize winner George Kologeris, a poem about his father blessing the house with a spring of basil. Archie Burnett, the current editor, read a non-fictional piece on the commas in the famous first sentence of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and the same punctuation mark in Milton's Paradise Lost. John Burt regaled our table with Civil War stories. It was lovely to talk more with Misha, Kevin and Dustin, with Helaine and Phil completing the table.
This is my third ALSCW conference. I was feeling terribly awkward and overawed at my first, in Philly. My second, in Athens, Georgia, last year, was better but still suffused with the anxiety of leading an academic panel for the first time in my life. I still feel woefully out of my depth at this third conference, but the colleagues here have been kind and supportive. I exchanged books with Greg Delanty. Many paid compliments to the panel on Asian American poetry. John Briggs, the President, again said last night that he was going to seek out Goh Poh Seng's Lines from Batu Ferringhi, even though it is out of print. This last is of special meaning to me. One reason for writing the essay on Lines was to bring greater notice to the wonderful poem. To do so at such a conference in the States is gratifying. It encourages me to do more research on Goh. John's interest also validates my belief about the ALSCW, that here is an bunch of people who genuinely and deeply care for imaginative literature.
So much to learn from these scholars and writers. I was very impressed by three panels in particular, one on literary translation from German and Slavic Languages, another on compassion in Renaissance Literature, and the third on the chorus in Athenian Tragedy. The presenters showed thorough and passionate mastery of their material and argued eloquently for their topic. The papers were also related in either theme or method, and so gave a ranging sense of the field. The imaginative sustenance for the three days came from the poet George Kologeris. His seriousness of purpose, sincerity of feeling, honesty in diction, made his poetry a wholesome and welcomed meal.