Writing is, by its very nature, a lonely task. But the last two years have only increased that sense of isolation. “In many ways, I think 2022 has given a lot of writers pause to reflect on just how lonely a business writing is. In fact, many writers I know struggled to produce new work, partly because of the lack of interaction and connection that we might find in open mics, readings or other events,” says Zachary Kluckman of the New Mexico State Poetry Society, reflecting on the effect the pandemic has had on our state’s wordsmiths. “I think we strike sparks in one another, and that has been missing in some corners. But every time poets gather together, a conflagration is ignited.” The spark hoping to ignite the latest conflagration of creativity is the New Mexico State Poetry Society’s annual convention, taking place Saturday, April 16 from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.
“The New Mexico State Convention is held yearly to celebrate poets and their creativity. Poets who electrify not only words on a page but bring poetry to new light in the public eye,” says Bernadette Perez, current president for the NMSPS. “New Mexico is home to so many extraordinary poets, and this is an opportunity to celebrate not only poets here in New Mexico. On April 16 we have over 30 poets from all over the world, and from all poetic backgrounds presenting workshops, readings and more!”
The hopeful purpose of the Poetry Society’s daylong gathering is to highlight some of the many amazing voices that New Mexico is fortunate to be home to and to expose local poets to voices and styles from beyond the state that they may not have encountered yet. Celebrated local poet, novelist, essayist, editor, playwright, translator and independent scholar Ana Castillo is this year’s keynote speaker. Nigerian poet Ayokunle Falomo is 2022’s, spotlight guest. Dana Levin, a poet who teaches creative writing at Maryville University in St. Louis, is one of the featured readers—as is Santa Fe Poet Laureate Darryl Wellington. “It’s more than just a gathering of like-minded creatives. It’s a full-on necessity,” says Kluckman, who recently stepped down as NMSPS president to focus on fundraising and events like the Poetry Convention.
“We also have several writing workshops and open mics available. But for me, one of the most exciting things is the chance to attend curated readings that speak to mental health, to grief and healing,” says Kluckman. In fact, the theme of this year’s convention is “Transition”—something we’re all in the midst of. “As we seek to move back into the world in new ways in 2022, it is important that we remember the struggles that we may not see,” says Kluckman. “Now, we have this opportunity together to hold one another up and to speak some of these struggles aloud and give power back—to ourselves and to our community. And these curated readings are one way we want to begin this.”
Normally between 90 and 100 people attend the NMSPS’s annual convention, but this year the convention is going digital, holding meetings via Zoom. “The virtual platform gives us an opportunity to reach out to poets in an unprecedented way, so we hope to see even more people attend this exciting event and interact with poets from literally all over the nation,” says Kluckman. And it’s not just professional poets and society members who can attend the convention. Anyone is welcome. “NMSPS is a vibrant player in the larger poetry and arts community,” explains Perez. “We celebrate poetry in all genres and formats and welcome poets at all levels of expertise.”
Newcomers who want to get involved have a couple of options. They can attend the virtual convention as a non-member by purchasing a registration and being part of all the workshops, readings and events. Or they can become an NMSPS member and, as Kluckman puts it, “save a few bucks in the process and be in-the-know on all of our other events coming up, including the opportunity to be published in our first-ever anthology, which we will be announcing at the event.”
“New Mexico has such a rich history of poetic endeavor, stretching far back into the past,” says Kluckman, whose organization was founded way back in 1969. “This state has been home at one time or another to many iconic poets, from Mark Strand and Poet Laureate Joy Harjo to Leslie Marmon Silko and Arthur Sze. Not to mention our keynote speaker, Ana Castillo, whose voice has had a profound impact on the literary world, as well as on the way many young readers examine their place in the world.”
All of this rich history and culture contributes immeasurably to the NMSPS’ gathering of literary minds. “When poets gather together, we inspire one another,” says Kluckman in summation. “We grow from the encounter. As Carl Jung once said, ‘The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.'”
Perez hopes those attending this year’s get-together “not only feel the emotions but a chance to connect” and have the opportunity to, as she puts it, “venture beyond the voices.”
For complete information on the New Mexico State Poetry Society’s Virtual Annual Meeting & State Convention, including a complete schedule of events, go to nmpoetry.com.