Diversity & Community: A Midwestern Poetics to Move Us Forward

        #AWP2015 #R118 & #MidwestPoetics Google Resource Doc: http://tinyurl.com/ofg9nxv 

Panel Description: Five poets (and educator-critic-editor-activists) discuss practical strategies for creating inclusive, dynamic poetry communities. Focusing on local realities and revealing regional complexity, we present counter-narratives that our work emerges from and generates: historical, economic, geo-political, multilingual, multicultural, artistic. Recognizing a range of aesthetic possibilities for poetic activism, we examine common goals: equity, access to social and artistic spaces, meaningful lives.

AWP Minneapolis

Room M100 A, Mezzanine Level 9:00 am to 10:15 am, Thursday, April 9, 2015

Some questions…

What is Midwest poetics?

Barn raising or Barn razing?

What journals /orgs support “Midwest” arts & the identification/exploration of regional identities and cultures?

What is Editing of Witness?

What is Performance Publishing?

What place would you most like to see/hear/experience a poem that you haven’t?

What is digital placemaking? What does it mean to make digital space?

How can we better reach across divides (academic writers versus “community” writers; mothers v. non-mothers; various educational levels; gender and family choices; income/wealth disparities; geographical regions; aesthetic differences; etc.) in our daily practice of poetry?

How do we prove we are “serious” writers? Do we want to do this? What does the word “serious” imply?

Who determines which publications have prestige? Who decides what “counts” and what gives them that power?

How do we live meaningful lives, and how do we empower others, those who will never afford an MFA program, writers in prison, writers at the margins, how do we empower those writers to also write their way into ever deeper meaning?


Links to innovations, projects & prose pertinent to Midwest Poetics 


Some articles about Midwest Poetics

Presenter Bios, “Diversity & Community: A Midwestern Poetics to Move Us Forward”


Kimberly Blaeser, kblaeser.org,  is the current Wisconsin Poet Laureate and a Professor at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she teaches Creative Writing and Native American Literatures. She is the author of three collections of poetry: Apprenticed to Justice, Absentee Indians and Other Poems, and Trailing You.  Her scholarly study, Gerald Vizenor: Writing in the Oral Tradition, was the first native-authored book-length study of an Indigenous author. Blaeser is Anishinaabe, an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, and grew up on the White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. She is the editor of Stories Migrating Home: A Collection of Anishinaabe Prose and Traces in Blood, Bone, and Stone: Contemporary Ojibwe Poetry. Blaeser is currently at work on a collection of “Picto-Poems” which combines her photographs and poetry.


Brenda Cárdenas is the author of Boomerang (Bilingual Review Press, 2009) and the chapbooks Bread of the Earth/The Last Colors with Roberto Harrison (2011) and From the Tongues of Brick and Stone (2005). She also co-edited Between the Heart and the Land: Latina Poets in the Midwest (2001). Cárdenas’ poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Angels of the Americlypse: New Latino/a Writing, City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness, The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry, The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century, U. S. Latino Poetry Today, Cuadernos de ALDEEU, Pilgrimage, Verse Wisconsin, Cream City Review, Achiote Seeds, RATTLE, and Prairie Schooner, among others. She is a former board member of Woodland Pattern Book Center and served as the Milwaukee Poet Laureate from 2010-2012. In 2014, the Library of Congress recorded a 45-minute reading of her work for their “Spotlight on U.S. Hispanic Writers.”


Fabu, as she is professionally known is a poet, storyteller, columnist and educator.  She was Madison Poet Laureate from 2008-2011 and the first African American.  She has written three books: Poems, Dreams and Roses, In Our Own Tongues, and Journey to Wisconsin: African American Life in Haiku.  In Our Own Tongues was published by the University of Nairobi Press and is taught as a part of a Contemporary African American Poetry class.  Journey to Wisconsin: African American Life in Haiku is the winner of a Wisconsin Library Award. Fabu is currently working on Remember Me:  Jazz Pianist Mary Lou Williams. Fabu holds a double Masters from the University of Wisconsin in African Languages and Literature and African-American Studies. She has a traveling poetry exhibition, Poet Fabu In Wisconsin.  Her short list of publications include Southern Women's Review, PMS, Callaloo and Verse Wisconsin. She will read her two Pushcart nominated poems about life in Wisconsin. For more information visit www.artistfabu.com. poetry open mic on the bus.jpg

Margaret  Rozga (Twitter: @mvroz) has published three books:  Justice    Freedom    Herbs, Though I Haven't Been to Baghdad, and 200 Nights and One Day. She served as managing editor of the poetry chapbook anthology Turn Up the Volume: Poems About the States of Wisconsin that raised $1800 for the First Amendment Protection Fund and is currently project coordinator for a chapbook anthology for the Coalition for Justice. Her Pushcart Prize nominated essay “Community Inclusive: A Poetics to Move Us Forward” is included in the anthology Local Grounds--Midwest Poetics.  She is a poetry consultant for Arts @ Large and has been a resident at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology and at Ragdale and a Creative Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society. Her work has been included in seven collaborative projects with visual artists.  Her poems have appeared in many journals, most recently in the current issue of Mom Egg.


Wendy Vardaman (Twitter: @wendylvardaman, wendyvardaman.com) has a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a BS in Civil Engineering from Cornell University, and recently returned to college to study Art and Design. She is the author of Reliquary of Debt (LitFest Press 2015) and Obstructed View (Fireweed Press), co-editor of Local Ground(s)--Midwest Poetics and Echolocations, Poets Map Madison, and founding co-editor of Cowfeather Press (cowfeatherpress.org). One of Madison, Wisconsin's two Poets Laureate (2012-2015), she has three adult children and has never owned a car. In addition to personal readings, she has coordinated dozens of poetry events, panels, and conversations in Wisconsin and beyond. With Sarah Busse, she teaches poetry workshops and develops collaborations with community, government, non-profit and civic organizations that promote and expand our ideas of both poetry and publication in order to integrate poetry into daily life, ritual, and the public square.  Tumblr blog: live art(s) art live(s).

About Local Ground(s)--Midwest Poetics, ed. by Sarah Busse & Wendy Vardaman, Cowfeather Press, 2014 Local Grounds, Midwest Poetics, book cover

from the introduction

Broadly speaking, we have tried to understand how poetry could better be integrated into everyday life and ritual. In big and small ways. At home. In the organizations we belong to. In civic space.

The vastness of contemporary Midwestern literature is bound up in contemporary Midwest culture and what it means to be Midwestern.

It is concerned, as we have been, with the relation of art to daily life. With art in

public space. With questions of community and diversity. With identifying and

repairing differences that divide us along lines of class, race, age, gender, education,

geography. With noticing people who are nearby and making a difference to each

other. Sometimes in large ways, sometimes in very small ones. It documents events

that happen here. It is playful. It produces creative political actions, as we witnessed

during the Wisconsin protests of 2011. It is founded on a long-standing ecopoetry,

poetry of place, and environmental awareness that includes many current examples

and past luminaries, as well as living indigenous Midwestern cultures that inspire

and shape present-day awareness of important issues like mining, water quality, and

fracking. It is multicultural. It is urban. It is inclusive at its best, and we have come

to think of the particular kind of Midwestern editing we practice as an Editing of

Witness. We have also thought of it in terms of maximalism rather than minimalism.

Of generosity rather than austerity. Of honesty, though we like our irony and work

hard to maintain a sense of humor. (What’s not to laugh in a place where winter

lasts nearly half the year?) Of relevance and connection. Of practical. Of multifaceted.Unexpected Shiny Things cover

We say yes to experiment and yes to technology, as long as those things aren’t

privileged. We say yes to plain speaking and accessible and formal, as long as those

things aren’t privileged. We say yes to what is new and what is traditional, separately

and in the same poem and poet. We have been about providing space for poetry in VW  and in its projects and assert that that act, however small or large, is a kind of activism. We assume that good editing includes finding out what people are already doing and making. That it’s about creating new relationships with a diversity of makers, and that, too, is activism. We invite you to be activists by making more space for poetry in your daily life and in the lives of people and organizations you interact with, however large or small.

There is always something worthwhile to document nearby.
Writers and artists are always doing just that. The sum total of what a group of

writers/artists do in a region defines the poetics/aesthetics of that region. There are

diverse writing/arts in every location. Getting to know the totality of that production

is a matter of research and is vital to a larger understanding of those poetic/aesthetic


Contributors to local ground(s)—midwest poetics & author websites  

Overpass Light Brigade's message at the Fall 2014 launch of TURN UP THE VOLUME: POEMS ABOUT THE STATES OF WISCONSIN, Woodland Pattern Bookstore, Milwaukee.poetic justice letters.jpg