Thursday, June 19, 2008

'70s in Orono

Quaint downtown Orono, without the snow. I've eaten several times at this restaurant. Once the confab, which went on happily for hours, was highlighted by a delightful conversation with Harvey Shapiro. Harvey's company was ten times finer than the food.

The National Poetry Foundation - its home has been Orono for many years - hosts a series of conferences on poetic decades. I've attended several of these, mostly notably the gatherings on the 1930s and 1940s. Alan Wald and I drove up (what a long drive!) from New Haven to Orono for the '30s conference. A highlight there was a talk by M. L. ("Mac") Rosenthal reflecting (for the first time in public, so far as I know) on his late-'40s NYU dissertation on '30s poets Rukeyser, Fearing and Horace Gregory.

That MLR had been somewhat ashamed of his choice of topic was obvious even at that late date (it was 1994 or so--which would be 2 years before Mac died); to choose 3 communist-affiliated "social" poets for a dissertation topic--not to mention such contemporary writers--at the beginning of the cold war did not seem to augur well at the time for Mac's career. And indeed he never published the dissertation as a book. (I own a clumsily bound copy printed from microfilm by that dissertation service in Ann Arbor.) He went on just fine at NYU, editing anthologies, publishing his own poems, teaching some of the great younger poets (Paul Blackburn was his student), becoming poetry editor of The Nation in the late 50s.

Now the tribe is back at Orono again (not I this time, though) to talk about the 70s. I'm somewhat following the proceedings because "LJS," the Britain-born NYC-based student of Anglo-Saxon and poetics who authors the blog called "The All-Purpose Magical Text," is and will be blogging summaries of readings and talks.

An Orono alphabet: here.

Some photos and a few videos: here

And from the blog called "glamor levels hi," this here entry that enchants me with its surprising phrases: "I imagine a world in which all objects retain the the political essence of previous use: I am me because my second-hand anarchist scarf knows me." "[A]nd when will the 70s end? and haven’t we quite eerily at this conference recreated social conditions?" "Everybody has to eat breakfast and then drive an hour to a museum to hear Bernadette Mayer and Clark Coolidge. This is why I am in Orono at all."

Here's the conference schedule.