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A Few Canadian Comments about the AWP Conference

By Christian Bök

The AWP Conference begins today, and like many of you, I am attending sessions in Denver, appearing alongside friends on a panel about the poetics of Flarf and Conceptualism. Since the first appearance of the AWP Conference in Vancouver (2005), I have been contributing to such events over the last six years, and within the first two years of my attendance, I have participated on panels with my Canadian colleagues from the Department of English at the University of Calgary. Our sessions have always garnered enthusiastic, superlative responses from attendees (in part because my peers are all very interesting, very charismatic personalities). The University of Calgary features the most advanced, most rigorous, programme for Creative Writing in English Canada (since we are the only institution here to offer a doctorate in English Literature, with a specialization in Creative Writing, allowing students to produce and to publish a creative dissertation with an academic introduction)—but despite this fact, our proposals for participation in the AWP Conference have met with recurrent rejection over the last four years. We have always followed up with organizers about the rationale for these rejections, wondering why our exciting research has been consistently rebuffed (and of course, the organizers reassure us that, year after year, many viable panels of merit go unaccepted—but that we must simply keep trying over and over again…).

We have felt, however, that the AWP Conference has not adequately represented the interests of its foreign members (who, of course, pay fees), and we feel that a programme of our supreme calibre in Canada warrants being considered more seriously for recurrent, if not consistent, participation at the conference (if only so that our constituency sees itself represented among the membership). We cannot help but feel that such recurrent rejection has come to reflect a systematic ignorance about the importance of our contribution to both research and pedagogy in the field, and we feel somewhat dismayed that the AWP continues to prevent us from showcasing our talents to both students and teachers from America. We cannot ignore the chronic absence of other Canadian programmes at these events, and we feel disappointed that the organizers do not seem to do more to redress the scholastic insularity of American, academic culture—consequently, our institution has felt obliged to cancel its membership in the organization, since we have come to feel that we are merely wasting our fees. We have, in fact, decided that, in response to such neglect, we must spearhead an initiative to create a national coalition that can serve the interests of programmes here in Canada—and towards this end, my colleagues and I have been working very hard to organize a founding, literary conference in Banff for later this year, so that instructors in Canada might begin work on creating an organization (the CCWWP), which might better represent the unique issues of its membership….

(Otherwise, I am looking forward to seeing you all at the conference—and if I am not at the tables, buying a stack of books, I am probably nursing a martini at the bar…).


Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, April 7th, 2010 by Christian Bök.