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The neutral zone

In an effort to move the conversation forward:

Closed • Borders • Open:

The Neutral Zone,

Symposium on Sexuality, Class, Race, Gender, and Otherness in Poetry

PROPOSAL to fellow poets and writers and CALL for PARTNERS

During and following AWP 011, a number of issues regarding race and gender issues particularly in poetry ignited discussion among poets and writers. In an effort to move beyond the specifics of the individuals and organizations that initiated the larger buzz and create a space for real examination and discourse, as well as to widen the lens to include other areas of identity that effect the poet, the speaker in a poem, as well as the audience and the receptivity/relationship between the writer and the reader, I propose a symposium that would be developed through collaborative processes and means, that would not be “owned” by any one person, organization, community, or aesthetic school, and that would foster a genuine “demilitarized zone,” de-escalating covert and overt hostilities, creating a neutral zone where civil discourse and consideration of different views would govern, and fostering porousness between borders .


1.       Establish a committee of interested persons to lead the development of the symposium and related projects

2.       Involve partners across the poetry world (see below for suggested ones)

3.       Determine host site(s) and a date: Target April 012

4.       Develop questions the Symposium wants to explore and determine leads for panels; create and disseminate calls for papers

5.       The committee would propose an AWP 012 panel to discuss topics the symposium will address. This would also generate interest in the symposium. Perhaps, What Grows in the Neutral Zone: Class, Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Otherness in Poetry

6.       The committee would hold an off site reading at AWP 012 of poets related to the symposium which would also generate interest in The Neutral Zone

7.       The event itself would be a one day series of panels and readings. I envision a host site in NYC with panels and talks, as well as offsite readings at night and the next day at partner sites in the City. Further, I envision simultaneous events at colleges or organizations across the country, for example, in the South, the mid West, and the West Coast, and that the events be interlinked through live streaming technologies as well as having all sites recorded

8.       The visual records could be later edited and assembled into a documentary that could be marketed for educational purposes to schools

9.       The essays and papers written for The Neutral Zone could be collected and edited and published as a book which could be marketed both in and outside Academia


The above are all practical matters, but other goals are less tangible, but have potential, though less assessable and certainly not quantifiable,  to create change:

1.       To get people who are potentially in or who are in opposition to each other within Poetry –across many identity and aesthetically driven “camps” – to hear, in a less polarizing way, the various views that have emerged or are emerging around issues raised at AWP, and

2.       To move these conversations forward, while

3.       Also getting groups and organizations collaborating with each other. It seems to me that some of the partners I will suggest be invited to participate in The Neutral Zone are doing very important work, but in many ways, we are Balkanizing ourselves further, and one way to mitigate against that is to work together on projects, such as the one I am proposing, in which all stakeholders have shared concern for the success of all the partners (I am calling on the systems thinking work by Peter Senge, such as the concept of Wheels of Success, and identifying in one’s own planning the entities around you and considering what they need to be successful and supporting that)

Suggested partnership invitations (Disclaimer: I am making this proposal and these suggestions as a private person, NOT out of any institutional or organizational affiliation, and am NOT representing here anyone but myself)

Cave Canem

The Asian American Writers Network



Alice James Books (on e of the oldest collective presses and with its roots in feminism)




Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers

The American Poetry Review

Poetry Magazine

Host college for auditorium/facilities use: New School?

Any other publications, organizations, and individuals who would be interested in partnering.