#AWP18 Event Organizer Q&A with Melissa Hammerle

AWP | March 2018

Event Title: Poets Teaching Poets: Literary Mentorship and the Creative Life
Event Description: Our greatest teachers are those who attend, with exquisite care, to the literary terrain of our inner lives. They show us a path into our writing with an understanding that shapes us profoundly, as writers and as teachers. In this panel we will reflect on our own mentors, including Stephen Dunn, Lorna Goodison, Galway Kinnell, Philip Levine, Lorenzo Thomas, and Jean Valentine, while considering what constitutes meaningful literary mentorship in the academy and in our broader writing communities. Participants: Melissa Hammerle, Matthew Dickman, Danielle Legros Georges, Kathleen Graber, Malena Mörling
Location: Ballroom A, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Date & Time: Friday, March 9, 3:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.


Q: What new understanding or knowledge will attendees walk away from your event with? 
A: Recently, several of us have lost our most influential literary mentors. In response, we hope to both honor and explore the role of mentorship in our writing lives. We will consider how critical relationships with writing mentors inform how we write, teach, and create engaged and powerful literary communities. We will honor those writers we have known who have supported generations of younger writers, recognize the importance of mentorship in the arts, and consider what literary mentorship means in the context of the student-teacher relationship. Hopefully we will all walk away from this conversation with a richer appreciation for the role of mentorship in our writing lives and with a deeper commitment to our own roles supporting and guiding our students, our colleagues, and those in our writing communities.

Q: What makes your event relevant and important in 2018? 
A: For many of us, these past few years have represented a generational shift in writing programs and our writing communities as we have lost a number of writers who were among the first to teach in university-based writing programs. These writers were instrumental in defining a new context for literary mentorship in the twentieth century—a model that is still with us today but which has also significantly evolved in recent years (largely through the development of low-residency pedagogical frameworks for teaching and learning). Indeed, many of these same writers helped to redefine literary community and stewardship. In this complex cultural moment, one that calls us to reconsider the role of literature and the writer in our national discourse, by considering the role of the writer-mentor relationship we are also reconsidering what it means to engage deeply in the writing life. In other words, by being in dialogue with writers whose work has shaped our own and whose lives have inspired our work in the field, how has that informed our own work in the literary community?

Q: What are some of the conference event (besides your own) or bookfair exhibitors you forward to seeing?
A: So, so many! Featured presenters including George Saunders, Mary Ruefle, Tyehimba Jess, Edwidge Danticat, and Ha Jin; small presses (all presses) to discover new authors/books. And many panels, some of which include: Learning Curve: The Challenge of Building Inclusive Communities; Persona of the Personal: A Reading and Roundtable; The Revival of Aphrodite’s Daughter: Rhetoric in Contemporary Poetry; Memoir as an Agent of Social Change; and Avoiding the Sunken Place: On Blackness, Selfhood, and the MFA.

Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?

A: Very difficult to narrow down, but here are some highlights of new books or those I’ve rediscovered: Bestiary by Donika Kelly, The Far Away Brothers by Lauren Markham, Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, Olio by Tyehimba Jess, Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong, The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, Collected Poems by Galway Kinnell, and My Lost Poets: A Life in Poetry by Philip Levine.

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