Saturday, September 18, 2004

The long arm of Ivan is casting huge fistfulls of rain down on New York City this morning. I'm going to be pretty wet by the time I'm done walking the twenty-five blocks or so from my cousin's apartment where I'm staying to Columbia. Maybe I'll cab it.

I took extensive notes on the conference proceedings yesterday afternoon but I don't have time to post them right now. It's a big conference: the organizers expressed gratification and astonishment at there being 200+ Zukofsky fans at this thing. If a meteor had struck Philosophy Hall yesterday the leading lights of American innovative poetry would certainly have been wiped out. It's been very stimulating, but I find conferences like this to be lonely affairs. Both this conference and the Modernism Studies Conference I attended in Birmingham (and there's some overlap in the attendees) are like family reunions at which I'm a very distant cousin. Everyone's constantly winking and smiling and waving at each other and forming tight knots of conversation between panels. I don't know anyone here quite well enough to feel comfortable inserting myself into one of those knots, though I might hover at the edges of one. It seems ironic that I, a shy person deeply committed to poetry, should be surrounded by so many other shy people deeply committed to poetry, would feel isolated in the midst of them. Though I don't want to overstress this. The feeling of intellectual community is very strong, and it's invigorating to hear these talks at the center of which stands a figure that only a few of my colleagues and professors at Cornell have heard of. And though I'm not presenting anything, I feel strongly that I could have; that is, that I'm capable of making a contribution to this conversation that others would consider valuable. That's a considerable morale-booster for this would-be professor.

Well, I must be off to take in Day 2. Some notes on the proceedings will follow but probably not till I get back to Ithaca.

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