In this issue is a sample of original creative writing from Mennonite/s Writing VI: Solos and Harmonies, held at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) from March 29-April 1, 2012. The writers here represented suggest some of the variety, passion, and talent that contributed to the success and texture of the conference. The works I have chosen for this issue were either read at the conference or written in response to it. All of the writers are younger--from the under forty set--and suggest the vitality of the new generation of writers that has emerged since the first Mennonite/s Writing Conference held at the University of Waterloo twenty years ago.
Anita Hooley—poet, scholar, and seminary student who participated in both scholarly and creative panels at the conference—meditates on the importance of a literary forerunner, Julia Spicher Kasdorf, to the emergence of her own creative voice. Becca J.R. Lachman, author of the poetry collection The Apple Speaks, and Jesse Nathan, a poet and poetry editor, share new work, published here in its current form for the first time. Maria Lahman, a professor of Qualitative Research, offers an example of research poetry, with an explanation of that genre. Connie Braun, known for her memoir The Steppes are the Colour of Sepia, weaves memories of cultural transition into her poems. Kristen Mathies’s short story, “People Who Understand,” shows how the experience of and passion for a place and intercultural dialogue informs a work a fiction.
Part literary festival, part academic conference, Mennonites Writing VI, organized by Kirsten Beachy and Julia Spicher Kasdorf, with the help of a small dedicated committee, was flavored with a keynote address on “Ethics, Aesthetics, and the Lyric” and a poetry reading by Gregory Orr, a performance of “Back to Berlin” by playwright Vern Thiessen, State of the Art addresses by Hildi Froese Tiessen and Ann Hostetler, poetry readings by Julia Spicher Kasdorf, Jeff Gundy, Jean Janzen, Keith Ratzlaff, Todd Davis, fiction readings by Rudy Wiebe, Dora Dueck, Katherine Arnoldi and Sofia Samatar, and a theater performance by Robert Hostetter, just to mention a few highlights. Topics for academic panels ranged from Theopoetics, Poetics, Visual and Popular Culture, Pedagogy, and Criticism to Memoir, Marginal Identities, Publishing, the Teaching of Mennonite Literature and even a workshop on hymn writing. Tributes were given to those who have made major lifetime contributions to Mennonite Writing, including Ervin Beck, Omar Eby, Elaine Sommers Rich, Alvin Reimer, and Katie Funk Wiebe. These tributes will be published in the Mennonite Quarterly Review.
Because of the many concurrent panels at the conference and the abundance of topics, attendees could “choose their own adventure” and come away with multiple and varied impressions. Some of these have been recorded on blogs or in news stories, listed below. The Mennonite Quarterly Review will publish a selection of papers from the conference in the coming year, and The Conrad Grebel Review will publish papers on the topic of Theopoetics. The Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing hopes to publish additional creative or topical essays from the conference in its forthcoming issues this year. Look for a poetry feature from a new Mennonite writer, Abigail Carl-Klassen in our September issue on documentary filmmaking.
Report on the conference from Dora Dueck’s Blog, Borrowing Bones:
Report on the conference in Tweets from Shirley Hershey Showalter’s blog:
Yeats, Mennonites, and Memoir, a blog reflection by Shirley Hershey Showalter:
Sofia Samatar’s blog reflection on Mennonite/s Writing:
Becca Lachman’s blog reflection on Mennonite/s Writing: