March 28, 2012

Split This Rock, March 24 -- Panel

Perhaps one of the most moving, or at least emotionally complex, panels I attended was "White Poets Writing About Race: An Invitation to Conversation" held at the DC Center for LGBT on U St. The place was packed & folks kept trying to get in.

Ailish Hopper, Jake Adam York, Martha Collins, Susan Tichy, Tess  Taylor
The panel was chaired by Martha Collins, whose books White Papers (Pittsburgh, 2012) & Blue Front (Graywolf, 2006) explored the issues of race from a white woman's perspective. Also on the panel were Ailish Hopper, Tess Taylor, Susan Tichy & Jake Adam York. Martha said that the topic would be explored from not "why," but "how" with a more roundtable approach rather than long presentations from the panelists. So there was a lively, wide-ranging discussion that sometimes veered off more into group therapy.  Apparently this same panel had been presented at the recent AWP conference in Chicago.

Susan Tichy described "the personal as an instrument," that there is no "right way" to talk about family, race, etc., & there is no right way to be silent about it either. Another point made in the discussion was that we, as writers, can't beat ourselves up when writing about any of these sensitive issues, that we can't get it perfect. I also particularly liked Jake's reading of his poem "City of Grace" about Jackson, Mississippi.

Interestingly enough I bought Sarah Browning's book of poems Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (The Word Works, 2007, 2011) while at the Festival. She has a number of fine poems in this collection on race issues from a white woman's perspective that could serve as models for other poets who want to write from their own history & want to confront the world around them today.

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