Like a lot of our readers and contributors, I arrived home from AWP late Sunday night. What a time we had. Minneapolis was significantly colder than New Orleans and there were even snow flurries, rumors of some flakes the size of popcorn. I guess everything is bigger, more magical at AWP. The Southern Review and LSU Press celebrated their eightieth anniversaries with special readings at the conference. I took some photos that I’ve attached here (not very good ones—I have yet to master the touch of using a digital camera, having relied on my old 35 mm that I bought myself with my high school graduation money until last year, when, after a very good run, it stopped working).
The journal’s reading was well attended, and the panelists—Anna Journey, Michael Knight, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and David St. John—were on fire. All read from their previous or upcoming appearances in the journal, and David included a poem by Larry Levis as well as one by Phil Levine, both of which are part of our tribute to Larry Levis in the spring issue. Four other previously unpublished poems from Levis are also in the issue, as is work from his college teacher Peter Everwine and writers whose lives he touched, including St. John, Journey, Joshua Poteat, Ryan Teitman, and John Estes.
Participants in The Southern Review’s 80th Anniversary Reading at AWP. Standing, L-R: Michael Knight, David St. John. Sitting, L-R: Bonnie Jo Campbell, Anna Journey.
The LSU Press panel was moderated by Alice Friman and focused on poets: Friman, David Kirby, Kelly Cherry, and Anya Silver. All four also paid tribute to the wonderful Claudia Emerson, who died last year, by reading one of her poems before launching into their own work. The audience cried and laughed and gave pause, experiencing a full range of emotions at a truly memorable reading.
Emily was also busy on two other panels, one composed of fiction editors and another celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of LSU’s MFA program. At that, she read from one of her baseball pieces, which was published in Hobart while we were at the conference. When our commitments weren’t with participating in or attending panels and parties, we were at our booth chatting with contributors and friends or introducing ourselves and the journal to new acquaintances. It’s also a great chance for us to talk shop with our editorial colleagues at journals across the country; we came back to Louisiana with many good ideas.
The Southern Review contributor John Casteen with poetry editor Jessica Faust and poet Natasha Oladokun at the journal’s booth.
It was a successful conference for us all around, and now the spring issue is due to leave the printer and arrive in mailboxes soon. I’m thrilled to see the Levis tribute finally debut, of course, but am also proud, as always, to present many fine works, including poems from John Casteen and Carol Ann Davis as well as poems from newcomers to our pages Caitlin Vance and Sally Van Doren.
There’s much exceptional work on the prose side, but I’m especially fond of an essay from Georgina Nugent-Folan called “Going On in Style: Beckett at 25,” which is about Beckett’s work twenty-five years after his death and Nugent-Folan’s own mother’s battle with cancer. It’s great to have an essay that is both scholarly and personal about Beckett (and to have a reason to break my promise that I wouldn’t mention Beckett in my blog for a year—by the way, yesterday was his birthday—I did not forget). I like to think James Olney, who was a longtime editor of The Southern Review and a generous professor here at LSU until his 2004 retirement, would appreciate the inclusion of an essay on Beckett. James died while we were working on the spring issue, so it’s bittersweet that the essay appears now, but I’m glad it does.
We are having a lot of rain now, daily deluges, and are expected to have this weather at least another week. Minneapolis may have had popcorn-size snowflakes, but Baton Rouge and New Orleans have the equivalent of what happens when that big, magical snow melts. Luckily we also have the spring issue to keep us company inside awhile.