I’m back home, recovering from a wonderful, but exhausting, conference. I’ve been to many of the conferences hosted by the Working Class Studies Association, and I always feel empowered, but a bit overwhelmed, when I get home. And this year’s conference was no exception.
Because this is a multi-disciplinary conference, I got to meet a lot of people from a variety of fields and careers. Yes, there are professors who attend, but there are also veterans, nurses, electricians, union leaders, writers, human service workers, journalists, actors, musicians, artists and mechanics. They come from all over the country. What is the one thing they have in common? They are concerned about class issues in the United States. When I attend different panels and lectures, I learn so much, but I am also overwhelmed by what I don’t know. Indeed, it’s hard to formulate the abstract thoughts that are running through my head right now, so I will move forward to talk about the poetry world of the Working Class Studies Conference.
I was sad to hear that Jeanetta Calhoun Mish could not make it to our poetry panel, but was excited to present with poet Sandee Gertz Umbach! I thought our panel was well received, even though we had a sleepy 8:45 am time slot. I was also excited to meet up with Nick Coles, who moderated our panel. Nick doesn’t know this, but he’s partly responsible for my venture into working-class poetry. When I was 18, I had a class with poet Judy Vollmer who used a book edited by Nick (along with Peter Oresick) titled Working Classics: Poems on Industrial Life. This is where I was first introduced to the very idea that working class/blue collar life could be part of poetry.
I also sold many copies of both Stealing Dust and Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt -- note to self: my work appeals more to a working class audience than a general poetry audience. I need to remember this!
So, now I’m facing another busy week. For someone who started off the summer with few plans, my days are filling up quickly.