The program for this year’s Association for Mormon Letters Conference is up. Themed “Liberating Form,” it’s a joint venture with Mormon Scholars in the Humanities (which appears to be a vibrant organization, even if their homebase on the web is a bit drab). MSH is themed on Mormonism and embodiment. And, my, does this family meal have my mouth watering! (Yes, that is the sound of me smacking my lips.)
Here are the courses I’m most anticipating, though I likely won’t be able to engorge myself on them all:
*Friday, March 25: 9:00–9:50 AM: MSH: Jonathon Penny, United Emirates University, â€œGodsbody—Image, Icon, and Word Made Flesh Made Word (in Rudy Wiebeâ€™s A Discovery of Strangers and Paintings by Kirk Richards and Brian Kershisnik).â€
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Kirk’s work. I also appreciate Kershisnik’s. And I like Jonathon Penny’s stuff. too. He’s just emerging on the poetic scene and he’s a striking poet and scholar with a keen wit. I first came across Jonathon when I lurked on the LDS-HERM(eneutics) listserv for a short time last year (you can join the group here if it pleases you). And I’m deeply interested in LDS conceptions of embodiment (see this, for starters). So I think this session would start me off right.
*Friday, March 25: 11:00–11:50 PM: MSH: Blake Ostler, â€œAn Embodied God before/after/with the Universe.â€
*Friday, March 25: 2:15–3:45 PM: MSH: Wyatt Brockbank, Brigham Young University, â€œOnly through the Body Do We Know, Experience, Live: Philosophers, Poets, and Prophets on the Importance of the Body.â€
*Saturday, March 26: 9:00–9:50 AM: AML: Tyler Chadwick â€œ21st Century Lyric Mormonisms.â€
Oh, wait: that’s me! Here’s a taste of what I’m planning:
In the more than two-decades since Harvest: Contemporary Mormon Poems was published, many poets who maintain a variety of connections with Mormonism have established themselves within the field of contemporary American poetry. Indeed, since the turn of the millennium (from 2000 to the present), many have published in national venues and received national recognition and support for their work. Many others have risen to prominence within the Mormon literary community, publishing high-quality poems in Mormon-centered periodicals. Several of the poets from these two categories frequently publish work in both arenas. Still other poets with ties to Mormonism have used social media to potentially share their work with a broader audience than would be possible through publication solely in national or Mormon periodicals.
While each of these poets speaks with a distinctive voice and from a wide array of experiences, identities, and agendas, one thing that draws them together is a shared understanding of the language of Mormon experience. Although each understands this language to a different degree; although some speak it more openly and with greater accuracy than others; and although they claim various degrees of closeness to and activity within the LDS Church, their work can be profitably gathered and read–individually and collectively–as lyric manifestations of the contemporary Mormon cultural and religious experience. Iâ€™ve taken to calling these manifestations â€œ21st century lyric Mormonisms.â€
My intention here is three-fold: 1) to bring attention to the many Mormon-affiliated poets who are making names for themselves both within and beyond the growing number of Mormon periodicals and publishing houses (something I started here and will continue for years to come), 2) to examine the best of what these poets have published within the past decade, and in so doing 3) to discuss the varieties of the contemporary Mormon lyric voice and what such varieties may suggest about the current state and the potential of Mormon poetry.
Take my completely unbiased and un-self-aggrandizing word for it: you won’t want to miss this session! (But if you do, I may forgive you. Sometime. Maybe.)
*Saturday, March 26: 11:00–11:50 AM: MSH: Kirk Richards, â€œEmbodiment and Duality: An Artist’s Perspective on the Physical and the Spiritual in Imagery.â€
Um, yeah. I’ve been itching for years to see Kirk’s work in person. That is all.
*Saturday, March 26: 12:00–1:50 PM: AML Awards & Luncheon and Presidential Address.
Sure hope it’s good grub. Oh, and I’m interested in the awards and what the prez has to say, too.
*Saturday, March 26: 2:00–3:30 PM: AML: Gideon Burton, â€œEugene England Online: Liberating Mormon Biography in the Digital Age.â€
Eugene, Gideon, and new media. Sounds simply apocalyptic. Suh-weet.
*Saturday, March 26: 3:45–5:15 PM: AML: Gerrit van Dyk, â€œâ€˜Miltons of Our Ownâ€™: Form and Convention in the Mormon Epic Poem”
*MSH: David Heap, â€œEmbodiment and Sexual Addiction: The Search for Intimacy in a World of Disconnectionâ€
*MSH: Todd Mack, Stanford University, â€œThe Physical Engagements of the Literary Scholarâ€
*MSH: David Isaksen, Brigham Young University, â€œThe Body and the Poetic Universeâ€
*MSH: Kirk Caudle, Marylhurst University, â€œThe Discovery of Embodied Knowledge through the Discovery of the Authentic Self: A Guide for Revealing Ultimate Truthâ€
So. Many. Potentially. Awesome. Choices.
* * * *
So after looking over the offerings, what’s whet your appetite?
And, by the way, who’s going?