From October 26th to the 29th of 2017 the ALSCW will gather for its twenty-second annual conference. On the morning of the 29th, when the ALSCW Council and Executive Council meet, my term as President will end. Richard Russell, who led the effort to put together this year’s conference, will become President, and Kate Daniels will become our new Vice President. At that meeting Richard will hand Kate a copy of the first issue of Literary Imagination, which among other things featured poetry by Rachel Hadas, W.S. Merwin, and Mark Strand, an essay on translation by Margaret Atwood, and criticism by Robert Alter, Marjorie Perloff, Michael Putnam, and Bruce Redford on topics ranging from the Bible, to Homer, to Dante, to Samuel Johnson, to Geoffrey Hill. The ritual serves a reminder of the ALSCW’s rich legacy. Our members include creative writers, translators, literary critics, and textual scholars; our emphasis is on literature from all ages and in many languages; and on essays written in accessible prose that shuns jargon and that stresses literary history and aesthetics. Soon after the meeting, Kate will start planning the 2018 annual conference, which will be held at Vanderbilt University, where she teaches and serves as Director of the Creative Writing Program, and another cycle will begin.
Like many of our former presidents, I’ll continue to be closely involved with the ALSCW and will remain dedicated to its mission. During my tenure as Vice President and President, we (by which I mean our Council, membership, and staff) have made progress on many fronts.
- In January of 2016, our national headquarters moved from Boston University to Catholic University, where our D.C. location serves as an excellent cultural and geographic center to carry out our work. John Briggs, Lee Oser, Rosanna Warren, James McGregor, and others provided indispensable leadership, and our D.C. staff—Ryan Wilson and Jeffrey Peters—put in hours and hours of work.
- With the generous support of the Meringoff Foundation, we awarded cash prizes and travel stipends in the categories of fiction, poetry, and the essay, as well as secondary school prizes in the essay. The Meringoff prizes are, of course, given annually, and central to our mission.
- Over 170 critics, writers, secondary school teachers, artists, agents, and scientists participated in the 2016 annual conference in DC. David Bromwich presented the keynote lecture; Brad Leithauser and Rosanna Warren gave plenary readings. We celebrated the accomplishments of the Meringoff Award winners, and were treated to musical performances by Floyds Row, Rachelle Fleming, and Mike Mattison and Scrapomatic. Best of all, we discussed literature and art across four plenary panels and twelve seminars.
- We established the ALSCW Dissertation Fellowship as a complement to our Vermont Studio Center Fellowship for creative writers and translators. Both are awarded annually.
- Ryan Wilson became the editor of Literary Matters, and transformed it from a newsletter to an online journal that publishes poetry, fiction, translations, book reviews, and much more. Jeff Peters designed the online format. The last issue had over 17,000 readers.
- Ryan’s position as Office Manager also recently changed from part time to full time, which brings a great deal of stability to our organization.
- Local meetings featuring a variety of writers, critics, and artists were held in Boston, Calgary, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C. These meeting are crucial to maintaining a vigorous national presence throughout the year.
- We raised funds to create a new website (alscw.org) that now serves as a portal to our many activities, and we reformatted our Facebook page in order to expand our Internet presence.
I hope you’ll agree that much has been gained, and even more importantly, that there’s still a great deal to more to accomplish. Please support the ALSCW by renewing your membership in a timely fashion each year, by bringing others into our organization through gift memberships, by hosting and attending local events, and by spreading the word about our good work.
Let me close my final President’s Column by stating the obvious: it has been an honor and a pleasure to serve as President.