2017 awp conference & Bookfair February 8–11, 2017 • Washington, dc


Measuring up: Creative Assessment in Creative Writing Programs



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Measuring up: Creative Assessment in Creative Writing Programs. (Matthew Monk, Bich Minh Nguyen, Sarah Harwell, Ellen Litman, Miciah Bay Gault)

AWP advises graduate creative writing programs to nurture and expedite the development of a literary artist. Good writing teachers do just this. But writing programs are also under intense pressure from accrediting associations to measure student achievement using quantitative and qualitative methods. This panel of faculty, administrators, and a college dean offers concrete ways writing programs use mandated assessment guidelines to enhance, rather than hinder, writing curricula.


Mentoring, Mansplaining, Mothering: Directing Creative Writing Programs While Female. (Leanna James Blackwell, Judith Baumel, Laura Valeri, Janet Sylvester, Stephanie Vanderslice)

What kinds of gendered obstacles do directors encounter in the academy? How do female directors counter sexism directed at faculty or students? Our panel brings together 5 creative writing program directors—three graduate and two undergraduate—to share the challenges of directing “while female.” Each will go beyond sharing these challenges to suggest specific ways directors can transcend sexism they might encounter in the academy and draw upon their strengths to enhance their programs.


Mining a Dark Vein: Writing about Appalachia and America’s Working Class. (Larry Bingham, Jayne Anne Phillips, Amy Clark, Crystal Wilkinson, Jeff Mann)

Six hours from the capital, in the Appalachian coalfields, lives a working class—people feeling angry, marginalized and stereotyped. On display during elections, this misunderstood population spans 13 states but is largely absent from America’s literary conversation. In this panel, 5 writers with intimate knowledge of Appalachia explore how we can understand its traumas, value its truth and tell its complex stories.


Mommy Dearest/Daughter Darling: Putting Words in Her Mouth. (Michelle Herman, Kathyn Rhett, Cade Leebron, Meghan Daum)

Whose story is this anyway?

Women writing about their daughters and women writing about their mothers--and a mother and daughter pair of nonfiction writers who frequently write about each other and thus offer an unusual lens on the question of "story ownership" and point of view--come together across the genres to talk about the challenges, joys, pressures, and consequences of exploring these relationships in both poetry and prose with real-life examples of writing and publishing experiences.
Mother Lode, Mother Load: Writing Difficult Mothers and Others. (Janice Gary, Lisa Chavez, Luisa Igloria, Karen McElmurray, Sue William Silverman)

Restless mother/from your breasts I sucked/ electrified milk/ harsh lessons, Neruda writes in “Ode to Restlessness.” This panel of five women writers—memoirists, poets, novelists, all from diverse backgrounds—explores how growing up with a mother or other adult who wielded wounding power over their lives has influenced their work. How does this mother lode work both as a vein of abundant resource and as inscrutable burden? What happens to writing after the spell of childhood is broken?


Murder She Wrote: Women Writers on Writing Violence. (Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, Robin Wasserman, R. O. Kwon, Nancy Rommelmann, Chinelo Okparanta)

From the deaths of the Clutter family in In Cold Blood to Sethe’s murder of her daughter in Beloved, brutal violence figures prominently in some of our most loved books. But how much blood on the page is vivid, arresting writing—and how much crosses over into sensationalism or exploitation? Five writers whose books grapple with violence--both real and imagined--talk about the choices, ethics, and strategies of rendering moments of high crime.


My First Year: from Graduate School to Academic Life. (Callista Buchen, Amy Ash, Jennifer Colatosti, Louise Krug, Benjamin Cartwright)

How can mentors and students better prepare for a variety of academic paths? This panel takes a case-study approach—five recent creative writing PhD graduates share where they landed (from community colleges to small liberal arts colleges to large state schools), what they wish they had known (both at the start of grad school and at the start of the job search), and to what extent their experiences in graduate school prepared them for their different academic lives.


National Monuments: The Poetry of Contested Spaces. (Chris Santiago, Craig Santos Perez, Aimee Suzara, Heid E. Erdrich, Brandon Som)

The U.S. has 121 protected areas known as national monuments, many of which can be found in Washington, D.C. A distinguished panel of poets considers these natural and human-made landmarks as conservation sites, as poetic subjects, and as contested spaces of living Native American, Mexican American, Asian American, and Pacific Islander cultures. The panel will also consider national monuments in the broader sense of the myth-making of nation states and ongoing struggles over canon formation.


No One Thinks They’re a Racist: Conscious and Unconscious Bias and Racism in MFA Programs. (David Weiden, Sarah Rafael Garcia, Ruby Hansen Murray, Misty Ellingburg, Alexandria Delcourt)

This panel will address the conscious and unconscious racial biases that often exist in MFA programs. Students of color frequently experience obstacles in workshop as well as faculty mentors unable or unwilling to effectively critique diverse work. Panelists will discuss these challenges as well as potential solutions for faculty members, program administrators, and workshop participants.


Noemi Press: 15th Anniversary Reading. (Evan Lavender-Smith, Sandy Florian, Carolina Ebeid, Ryo Yamaguchi, Gabriel Blackwell)

Noemi Press was founded in 2002 to publish and promote the work of emerging and established writers, with a special emphasis on writers traditionally underrepresented by mainstream publishers, including writers of color, women writers, and genre-defying writers. On the occasion of Noemi’s 15th anniversary, the founding editor will talk about the press’s history and mission, and four Noemi authors will read from and discuss their work.


Not Invisible: Editors of Literary Journals Speak Out on Disability and Building Inclusive Writing Communities. (Sheila McMullin, Marlena Chertock, Jill Khoury, Mike Northen, Sheryl Rivett)

Disability voices are underrepresented in literature; the VIDA Count further points to this. Examining social ramifications of exclusion, this panel explores ableism in the literary world, barriers to accessibility and publishing, and promotion of disability literature. Editors of online magazines actively seeking work from writers routinely excluded from the literary field discuss disability, impairment, and embodiment with the intention of building inclusive and dynamic writing communities.


(Not) Just the Facts: Teaching Docupoetry and Investigative Poetics. (Erika Meitner, Rosa Alcala, Philip Metres, Susan Briante, Tyehimba Jess)

How can we help students define and create documentary poems, and tackle ethical dilemmas inherent to documentary? 5 Poets discuss innovative pedagogies, strategies, texts, digital tools, and exercises for teaching documentary poetry in undergraduate and graduate writing workshops, and issues that arise in the process. We will also explore the specific ways we engage in larger conversations around ethics of ‘truth,’ ‘objectivity,’ ‘text,’ language, and representation in poetry in the classroom.


Not Just Novelists: On Publishing Contemporary African Poets. (Matthew Shenoda, Chris Abani, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Tsitsi Jaji, Mukoma wa Ngugi)

Across a vast continent of more than 50 nations, contemporary African poets are writing into an increasingly global culture. Despite growing enthusiasm for the African novel, few are reading—and fewer publishing—African poets. Editors and writers from the African Poetry Book Fund, dedicated to publishing and promoting African poets, discuss the challenges in locating the most interesting poetry coming out of Africa and strategies to connect these writers to an international literary audience.


O Howard We Sing of Thee: HU Alumni Reflect on their Path to Poetry from “The Mecca”. (Abdul Ali, Yona Harvey, Amaud Jamaul Johnson, Douglas Kearney)

To celebrate Howard University’s 150 year anniversary, a panel of Howard University alumni, who represent various styles, literary experiments and stages in their writing career, address the unique gift that Howard University provided in making each of them aware of a long literary tradition that dates back to the Harlem Renaissance, which took root, also in Washington D.C. Our goal is to touch on how attending a historically Black College provided a wonderful springboard into American letters.


On Caucuses: Caucus Leaders Unite. (Miguel M. Morales, Bojan Louis, Ruben Quesada, Alyss Dixson, Tiffany Ferentini)

What do AWP caucuses do? Why are they important? Want to form a caucus or become more active? Come hear from minority caucus leaders (African Diaspora, Indigenous, Latino, LGBTQ) on the state of AWP's caucus system. Learn about the information sharing and the work our united caucuses are doing. Join one of the special initiatives we're launching to improve the AWP annual conference for everyone. We'll also offer a comprehensive guide to caucus events and volunteer opportunities at #AWP17.


Outside the Umbrella: Poetry and the Vantage Point of the Atypical. (jim ferris, leilani hall, stephen kuusisto, sheila black)

What does it mean to write poems from what disability studies scholar Simi Linton called “the vantage point of the atypical?” How do body/mind differences that fall outside the umbrella of normality serve as fonts for work by non-normative poets? These are some of the questions that four noted crip poets brought into a year-long correspondence in prose and poems. The poets share some of that work and discuss ways the differences called “disability” complicate and enrich their lives and work.


Pacific Rim Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics. (Tony Barnstone, Mindy Zhang, Mark Bender, Jonathan Skinner)

Is ecopoetry a genre, a topic, a map? With roots in Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, and folk beliefs, Pacific Rim ecopoetry often promotes a spiritual connection to nature and a distrust of the marketplace. Much contemporary Pacific Rim ecopoetry blossoms from these roots, but with an extra urgency due to the radioactive legacy of WWII and nuclear energy spills; deadly air, water and ground pollution; and the related cultural and social changes experienced by local cultures and ethnic minority groups.


Parenting the Poems & the Babies. (Ellen Hagan, Aracelis Girmay, Matthew Shenoda, Maya Pindyck, Mitchell L. H. Douglas)

How do you craft poems in the middle of parenting? How has being a poet shaped who you are as a parent? How have your kids shaped you as a poet? What shifts or changes have happened in your work? Five poets join up to talk about the madness & glory of parenting & share work about & inspired by its brilliant chaos. Join us to revel & bemoan, to celebrate, to share & help each other get from the babies to the poems.


Peace Corps Writers: Crossing Borders, Spanning Genres. (Joanna Luloff, Peter Chilson, Susan Rich, Sandra Meek, Tyler McMahon)

Poets, journalists, and novelists share their experiences as Peace Corps volunteers. The panelists will discuss how their service affected their writing, their relationship to literature, and their careers. They will address the challenges of writing about other nations and other cultures, as well as the assumptions and misconceptions many readers and editors hold about the Peace Corps. They hope to present international aid work as a valid option for a writer’s growth and education.


Persian Poetry as American Influence: a Multi-Genre Discussion. (Roger Sedarat, Don Share, Tom Sleigh, Elizabeth T Gray)

Over a half century before Ezra Pound turned to Chinese and Japanese poetry to help establish a poetics of western modernism, Ralph Waldo Emerson found his way to another, less recognized region of Asia. While poetry from Iran continues to inform American writing, its significance remains somewhat neglected. Five acclaimed American and Iranian-American authors offer new insights about the influence of Persian poetry upon their fiction, criticism, poetry, journalism, and literary translation.


Poetry As Invocation. (Marie-Elizabeth Mali, Airea D. Matthews, Ada Limón, Rachel McKibbens)

Henry David Thoreau said, I believe that men are generally still a little afraid of the dark, though the witches are all hung. On this panel, four poets will read their work and explore the poetic impulses of women as a magical or quasi-magical act. The audience is invited to discuss how poetry lures a reader into its casted spells and illuminates the necessary darkness we carry inside us. 


Poets as Translators: Versionists, Revisionists, or Vehicles? (Barbara Goldberg, David Keplinger, Nancy Naomi Carlson, Mark Irwin, Alana Marie Levinson LaBrosse)

Do poets who translate produce a new poem that imitates the source material, or do they "bring across" the idiom and word in the full definition of the word, "translating”? Are poets vehicles for the work they translate, or are they called on to recreate? If the latter, what is permissible within the context of literary translation? Languages: Danish, French, Hebrew, Kurdish, Romanian.


Poets Mothering Otherwise: Race, Disability, Queerness. (Joelle Biele, Amanda Johnston, Hoa Nguyen, Deborah Paredez, Lisa L Moore)

What are the ethics and politics of writing about our children when our families are politically vulnerable? Questions of censorship, privacy and children's rights resonate differently in poetry of witness or advocacy than in memoir or confessional work. As queer mothers, mothers of color, mothers of children with disabilities, what do we refuse to write about our families? What may we, must we, share as poets of witness? And how do we tell the difference?


Poets on Craft- Tipping the scales in persona poetry. (Laura Fairgrieve, Tina Chang, Sandra Beasley, Nicole Beer, Brian Barker)

This panel will investigate the masks constructed by poets as they write from perspectives different from their own. We will discuss the decision-making involved in the process of writing persona poetry, and what it means to work within another’s identity. We will discuss the ways in which the roles of fiction and research can work with or against each other in rendering personas. How much authority can poets take over different personas? Where can this pay off, and where can it go wrong?


Poets Writing the Holocaust: The New Generation. (Hadara Bar-Nadav, Michael Homolka, Sharon Dolin, Allison Benis-White, Maya Pindyck)

Theodore Adorno famously claimed: “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric,” yet many poets are still compelled to do so. Second and third generation poets will share their writing on the Holocaust and reflect on temporal and experiential distances that challenge writing on this topic. How does the generational gap affect how the Holocaust is treated in contemporary poetry? What trials, tensions, and generative possibilities does writing about the Holocaust involve for today’s poets?


Postcolonial Perspectives on Workshops of Empire. (Mirabai Collins, Conchitina Cruz, James Shea, Janelle Adsit, Eric Bennett)

This panel responds to Eric Bennett’s provocative new book Workshops of Empire: Stegner, Engle, and American Creative Writing during the Cold War. By historicizing international writing programs, panelists call for decolonizing approaches to understanding creative writing pedagogy. They examine the University of Iowa’s relationship to creative writing programs in Hong Kong, the Philippines, and among First Nations people in Canada. Author and scholar Eric Bennett will serve as a respondent.


Practicum and Beyond: Publishing Courses and Literary Citizenship. (Erika Meitner, Phong Nguyen, Rebecca Morgan Frank, Lisa Roney, Ron Mitchell)

Educators and editors from The Florida Review, Memorious, Pleiades, Southern Indiana Review, and SIR Press will address strategies for the vision and implementation of publishing courses in academia, creating a learning environment that both introduces professional skills and addresses larger questions of literary aesthetics, ethics, history, and community. Topics will include diversity, gender, inequity, intersectionality, multi-media technologies and social justice.


Publishing Diversely: Challenges and Successes, Sponsored by SPD. (Trisha Low, Piyal Bhattacharya, Charles Flowers, Zoe Tuck)

A diverse panel of small press publishers, authors, and arts leaders share their approaches to addressing—and achieving—diversity and representation as independent literary publishing.


Putting Madness to Work: The Poetics and Politics of Recovery. (Cynthia Oka, Jeffery Renard Allen, Rickey Laurentiis, Craig Santos Perez, Seema Reza)

Madness is a construct often attached to the work and lives of writers. How do writers working at the intersections of race, gender and class utilize it to orient toward contemporary discourses of mental health that disproportionately target their communities, for instance, around colonial erasure, sexual violence, police brutality, war? Panelists explore how their work is informed by and/or subvert the politics by which trauma is linked to social identity and prescribed strategies of recovery.


Queer Journeys: A Celebration of the University of Wisconsin Press’s 80th Anniversary. (Raphael Kadushin, Alden Jones, Brian Bouldrey, Lucy Bledsoe, Guillermo Reyes)

The University of Wisconsin Press has long been dedicated to publishing the strongest works of fiction, poetry and nonfiction by and about LGBTQ writers. It has also shown an ongoing engagement with issues of travel. Join five UW Press authors as they read from their work in celebration of UW Press’s 80th anniversary, spotlighting its commitment to ethically engaged literature that explores how LGBTQ people move through our ever-changing world.


Queering Masculinities. (Charlie Bondhus, Michael V. Smith, Jarrett Neal, CJ Southworth, Joy Ladin)

This cross-genre panel--comprised of writers who identify, previously identified, or live(d) as male--considers how we, as trans folk, gender nonconforming individuals, and/or cis men have experienced and challenged our relationships to masculinity. To explore how these experiences (re)shape and complicate our writing both in terms of form and subject, each panelist will read some pertinent work and comment on the roles their (dis)affiliations with masculinity played in shaping it.


Reading and Writing Improve Patient Care: The Case for Narrative Medicine. (Owen Lewis, Rafael Campo, Kamilah Aisha Moon, Kate Daniels, Pranav Nanda)

Poetry/writing at work--engagement in close reading or writing with those seeking and giving help has been shown to improve the quality of care. An internist writes with hospitalized patients. A psychiatrist introduces poetry in psychotherapy. A med student writes to understand his role with an abused child. A poet workshops with the stressed staff of a project for released felons. Another poet tells the often misunderstood story of an autistic child. This is the scope of Narrative Medicine


Real Talk, Real Action: Road Maps to Authentic Cultural Diversity. (Alexandra van de Kamp, Jenny Browne, Octavio Quintanilla, Christopher Rooster Martinez, Laurie Ann Guerrero)

Writers from San Antonio’s academic and community-based literary arts centers, including two San Antonio poet laureates, discuss the concrete steps and strategies they have taken to build cultural diversity among literary offerings in their growing Texas city. What are the barriers to, and opportunities for, creating a dynamic literary eco-system that reflects and values different perspectives?


Reckon and Revise: Feminist Practices for Re-Envisioning the Poetry Workshop. (Sasha Steensen, Lisa Olstein, Hoa Nguyen, Metta Sama, Deborah Paredez)

Too often, inherited practices, power dynamics, and other assumptions embedded in the traditional workshop are perpetuated without examination, limiting and even harming the possibilities for poets and poems. Feminist poet-teachers will explore ways to counter the monolithic workshop model's enactments of patriarchal, white and hetero-normative privilege while redistributing power and shifting modes of engagement in pursuit of more just, dynamic, and transformative conversations and poems.


Reclaiming the Past: The Challenge of Understanding Vanished Cultures. (Matt Burriesci, Maitrayee Basu, Bret Schulte, Huan Hsu)

Four accomplished nonfiction writers from different cultural backgrounds explore the challenges of reconstructing and translating cultural dimensions that are no longer easily accessible to modern Western audiences. From Hellenic culture to China’s Middle Kingdom, authors will discuss interpreting past cultural practices, recognizing the discomfort and surprise involved in cultural re-discovery.


Recovering Out of Print Queer Literature. (Philip Clark, Lisa C. Moore, Julie R. Enszer, Jan Freeman, Stephen Motika)

The publications of many important LGBTQ writers have fallen out of print and become inaccessible to readers today. This situation poses special challenges for LGBTQ authors published by small independent presses. As readers, editors, and publishers, how can we uncover and restore LGBTQ writing in danger of being lost? How can this work be brought to new readers’ attention? With our AWP audience, we will reflect on the recovery of this marginalized literary history, culture, and community.


Religious Metaphors in Nonreligious Poetry. (Jennifer Michael Hecht, Kim Addonizio, Matthew Zapruder, Timothy Liu, Cornelius Eady)

Poets who are not religious still may use religious words, such as heaven, prayer, sin, sabbath, hell, soul, ghosts, karma, or nirvana. Ghosts may be a way to talk about grief. "Soul" can mean one’s truest inner self. “God” isn’t “God,” yet the word shows up. What do these metaphors help us to see and what do they hide? The panel members are poets from diverse worlds, also well known for their insight on poetry. We’ll talk about it, reference poetry, and read our own poetry that relates.


Repaving the Pan-American Highway: Tía Chucha Presents Voices from the Diaspora. (Luis Rodriguez, Rubén Martínez, Sheila Maldonado, Leticia Hernández-Linares, Carlos Parada Ayala)

Tía Chucha Press presents the first comprehensive anthology featuring Central American Diaspora writers in the U.S. Until now, the literary landscape has yet to contextualize and amplify the voices of this distinct, bilingual, yet diverse group of writers. Editors and contributors with an investment in the historical and geographic context they write from, present readings from this groundbreaking collection that reflects a broad range of immigration experiences, languages, and cultures.


Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines - Radical Caretaking as Essential to Creating Revolutionary Communities. (Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, Lisa Factora-Borchers, TK Karakashian Tunchez, Autumn Brown)

Inspired by the legacy of radical and queer Black feminists of the 1970s and ’80s, Revolutionary Mothering places marginalized mothers of color at the center of movements working toward racial, economic, reproductive, gender, and food justice, as well as anti-violence, anti-imperialist, and queer liberation. Join the co-editors and contributors to discuss powerful visions and futures of collective liberation.


Search and Recover: A Reading from Queer Children of Vietnamese Immigrants. (Paul Tran, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Lauren Bullock, Alex-Quan Pham, Chrysanthemum Tran)

Forty-two years later, the Vietnam War continues to haunt all aspects of American life. This is especially true for children of Vietnamese immigrants growing up between cultures, between homelands, between the colliding past and present. Five poets who identify as LGBTQIA will perform recently published and nationally award-winning work and discuss how their families’ inability to talk about the War informs not only their desire to exhume the past but their important craft decisions as well.



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