The University English Department and Writing Program are sponsoring 10 students to attend the Academy of American annual Poets Forum in New York City. The conference, which lasts from Thursday, Oct. 16 to Saturday, Oct. 18, is hosted in partnership with the creative writing departments of The New School and New York University. It will be held at The New School in Manhattan.
University English Department Chair and Professor of English Sean McCann expressed his enthusiasm for the opportunity and stressed the importance of the gathering for students interested in poetry.
“The Academy’s Forum brings together working poets and lovers of poetry to discuss the newest developments in craft, technique, and style,” McCann wrote in an email to The Argus. “I’m very glad that our proximity to New York and the academic calendar this year allows Wesleyan students to attend the forum, to hear prominent poets in person, and to talk with other writers about the art they love.”
He further stated that the content of the conference aligns with the English Department’s mission.
“The English Department wants to do […] all it can to give aspiring writers the opportunity to develop their talents by working with leading practitioners in the field,” McCann wrote.
The forum features readings and lectures by leading contemporary poets and prose writers such as Toi Derricotte, winner of the 2012 Paterson Poetry Prize for Sustained Literary Achievement; Alberto Ríos, whose poetry has been included in the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry; and C. D. Wright, founder of Lost Roads Press. Wright is currently teaching a master class on poetry at the University this semester through the Shapiro Creative Writing Center.
Director of Writing Programs Anne Greene further described the University’s connection with the Academy of American Poets.
“At Wesleyan each spring we award the Sarah Hannah Poetry Prize, which is also part of the prize series co-sponsored by the Academy of American Poets,” Greene wrote in an email to The Argus.
Director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing Amy Bloom spoke to Wright’s ability.
“[Wright is an] outstanding, articulate American poet with a passion for poetry and teaching,” Bloom said. “It’s not just that she’s professional, it’s that she’s so gift- ed.”
According to the Academy of American Poets website, the conference is designed to explore the constantly changing landscape of contemporary American poetry. Sessions include “Writing is Rewriting,” “Endangered Languages and Texts,” and “Poets Writing Prose.”
Apart from award-winning writers reading and discussing their works, the forum will also feature Jaclyn Lovell (Editor-in-Chief of LIT magazine) and Kevin Larimer (Editor-in-Chief of Poets & Writers Magazine). These editors will discuss how writers successfully navigate the process of marketing and publishing their works.
Applications for attending the conference were submitted online and were due on Wednesday, Oct. 1. The University-sponsored attendance was organized by Kate Gibbel ’15, who stated that she has been hoping to attend the forum for the past couple of years.
“It seemed serendipitous that the forum overlapped with our fall break,” Gibbel said. “Professor McCann and Professor Greene were also very accommodating and made it easy to plan. I have also wanted to attend for the past two years, but it has always been at an inconvenient time.”
Gibbel also spoke to the importance of student exposure to professional and modern poets.
“The poets speaking are some of the best-regarded in the country; the talks should be illuminating,” Gibbel said. “And, at the end of the day, it’s important to support the arts, especially if one wants to be a writer and in that particular world.”
Nicole Stanton ’15, an applicant to the poetry forum, expressed her interest in attending the event.
“Writing can often be a sort of isolating venture, especially poetry, I think,” Stanton said. “It becomes this very introspective headspace that can easily feel like it doesn’t translate into something outside one’s self. Wesleyan is unique in that there are a lot of opportunities for finding communities of people that also live in this heady world. I think it’s awesome that Wesleyan is sponsoring students to attend [the Poets Forum.] It’s a thrilling reminder that there is so much being made in the creative world outside of Wesleyan, and that it’s crucial for us to tap into it.”
Max Friedlich ’17, a member of Wesleyan’s slam poetry team, expressed the importance of sharing and workshopping pieces at writing conferences to his creative process.
“Going to the CUPSI [College Union Poetry Slam Invitational] last year, I really saw/experienced the value of sharing poetry and hearing poetry anonymously,” Friedlich said. “It’s a community of poets that comes together really quickly. The intention that preexists in the space is one of acceptance, which is really awesome. You know that you are incredibly safe in that space. Conferences for this kind of thing are absolutely essential.”
Additional reporting by Assistant News Editor Sophie Zinser.