22 June 2014

Truth or Beauty: Poetry and Biography conference

One thing I'm doing this year is organising, with Anna Jackson (celebrated poet and senior lecturer in English literature) and Angelina Sbroma (PhD student and all around awesome person), this conference, about biographical poetry. It will be held at Victoria University of Wellington from the 26th to the 28th of November. I am very excited.

It has its genesis in me suggesting to Anna, seeing as she had recently finished writing a long sequence about Ancient Roman woman Cloda Metelli (who is thought to be Catullus's 'Lesbia', if you are familiar with Catullus's poetry, which I wasn't), that we should do a poetry reading of biographical poems (I have written a number of poems with more or less biographical elements, most of which ended up in My Iron Spine). Anna said, enthusiastically, 'Yes, but it should be a symposium'.

We very quickly got a bit more ambitious, and now the symposium has become an academic conference - well actually kind of more than an academic conference. It's a conference where academics and poet practitioners will be able to get together and talk about and reflect on this shared space - the poetry. I am particularly excited about this, because I have been developing a really strong interest in better connection between the literary community and the academic community, and also in the academic community sharing more with the interested wider community. In the case of this conference, I hope the mixture will lead to a reflective, vibrant and sparky few days.

We realised, after hunting around a bit, that while biographical poems are not uncommon, there isn't a great deal written about them in that light - that the field of biographical poetry is just waiting for exploration. And we've found some people who want to explore it with us. We have three keynote speakers already lined up, our Auckland poet and creative writing teacher Robert Sullivan, and two academics (and poets) from Australia: Jessica Wilkinson and Toby Davidson.

In any case, the deadline for proposing papers or discussions or readings is coming up at the end of this month, and while we already have many interesting proposals from great people, there's still time to send in yours. You can read the call for papers here: http://poetryandbiography.net/ and we've just put out some more detailed guidelines for proposals: http://poetryandbiography.net/2014/06/22/guidelines-for-proposals/. Or you can just come along, without giving a paper, and enjoy the talking and readings that I know will be stimulating, thought-provoking and maybe even inspiring. The fees for the conference are a total bargain: http://poetryandbiography.net/2014/06/15/conference-fees/.

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