Saturday, June 24, 2017

veering into #ASLE17

by J J Cohen
Detroit street late at night, near Wayne State U
I'm just back from Detroit and the Rust / Resistance conference, which also happened to celebrate twenty-five years of the flourishing of ASLE (an organization whose work has become even more urgent in the Time of Trump; please consider joining if you are not yet a member). I love this biennial conference for its welcoming vibe, its dedication to interweaving scholarship with creative writing, and its cultivation of diverse community. The conference also offers great field trips, and typically has an emphasis on local environmental justice issues. I've been going long enough that when I am there I always feel like I'm with friends.
post panel VEER celebration
Lowell Duckert and I organized a special session to celebrate the impending publication of Veer Ecology: A Companion for Environmental Thought (available for preorder, out in November: a huge book for about $20). Presenting were contributors Christopher Schaberg, "Wait"; Cord Whitaker, "Remember"; yours truly, "Drown"; Joseph Campana, "Power Down,"; Lowell, "Try"; Tess Shewry, "Hope" -- with Stacy Alaimo ("Unmoor") moderating. About a hundred people showed up, and what a lively audience they were. I'm proud of this book not for anything that it necessarily achieves (readers will determine that soon enough) but for how with such enthusiasm each contributor took a verb and followed its wayward trajectories, bringing their essays to some surprising and creative spaces. It's been a delight to companion them on their eco-journeys. Gathering some of the writers for short riffs on their essays and audience interaction was a joy to watch unfold.
a favorite book spotted in the wild
I also attended some inspiring sessions and plenaries that have left with plenty of food for thought. I ended the conference by participating in a graduate workshop on peer review that inspired me with the excellent work being done by PhD students at the moment, and their dedication to the field. I won't say the conference was unmitigated happiness by any means: many of my friends are going through personal challenges at the moment, and (just as the weather was sometimes sunny but sometimes storm filled) the heavy alternated with the light. And maybe that's what a veering ecology really is: neither permanent storm nor the stasis of an ever-present sun, yet an affirmation of living together within both. Detroit was the perfect place to hold the conference, considering the themes, The people who live there seemed eager to share hopes for the city's future with anyone willing to listen. It's proving to be a resilient place, thanks largely to its citizens. We could learn much at a national level from that dedication to better community.
the T shirt that earned me "random" extra screening at the airport post-conference

And now on Monday I'm off to Manchester for MAMO 3, followed by Leeds IMC. I'll be giving a big talk at both (plenary at one, the MAA lecture at the other), and I hope to see many more friends while on the road. Here's hoping your summer is off to a good start!

-- Jeffrey

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