Minutes of Writers House meeting, 11/20

From vbell Thu Nov 21 05:15:42 1996

Hey everyone!

At the Planning Committee Meeting held this evening we decided that since Alex wasn't around to take notes (and for some reason attendance was low - bad, bad hubbers!) we would all go to the listserv and state what went on from our perspective (or something like that in any case). So beware, what follows might only be a product of my deluded mind!

Of the three proposals that came up for a vote, one was passed: Nijmie's proposal to bring Aziz here to talk on journalism and Iraq Dec. 2nd. The other two proposals were tabled (Cornelius Eady, Bob Schultz) pending further discussion of both proposals. My personal interest was higher for the former than the latter (even though the latter is a friend of Al's). Where's Al we asked?

Elliott recommended we set up a group of committees in order to broaden the base of house activities. I threw my hands up in dispair! "Committees! Never! This is not *Philo*. Have you cracked!?" After a round of questions, Elliott was found not to have been talking about committees. A strange turn of events needless to say. But the need to reach a wider audience was considered very important if not crucial.

We talked around the difficulties of managing the speaker budget. Many they are, especially now as we enter the home stretch of our first year. Spring semester is getting booked up, which is great, but also worrisome - what about that great last minute speaker in March if we run out of funds? I mentioned that most of the things I am planning for the Spring that cost money are all going to be co-sponsored, and enphasized the need to seek out external funding whenever possible for in-house events. Why pay for the trip yourself when you could just as well catch a ride ("Piggyback" Dina said - yes cute *can* be sexy Dina).

When the issue of the proposal process came up we talked about the need for strong explanations of the proposals in order to inform others who very well might be ignorant of the person. You need to *convince* us that we should do this. Contra some, the WH budget is not "play money." Having it is a privilege, we need to use it responsibly, which means being neither misers nor spendthrifts.

Re: the discussion group on visting writers on alternate Weds. Low attendance has made me think this needs to be "jazzed up" (and don't mean the Trio needs to play), but Zorn on the tape deck on a Sat. afternoon at 1pm would be better - especially if Bagels and OJ were involved. I even offered to fix the occasional brunch.

Well, much more happened, but its getting late - so I will leave it to others to fill in the gaps. Good night all!


From root Thu Nov 21 06:00:38 1996
From: slarskey@sas.upenn.edu (David N Slarskey)

Shawn Walker wrote: > > Two of the proposals that were on the "ballot" tonight were > tabled. Therefore, I'd like to get a virtual vote this week. Bob Schultz > is coordinating with his agents and other schedulers, and needs to know > soon in order to make his plans for the Spring. I promised him an answer > by this week, so I'd like to get back to him. Please, continue your > discussion over this listserv if you would like to, but please do get me a > yea or nay by Monday.

I think that the biggest question about Schultz was what specifically he contributes to the environment at Penn and at the writers house that we couldn't get from staff on campus. Isn't it possible to get someone to lecture on the history of the Western nude who comes at a cheaper (free) price than $600? It seems like there must be *someone* here that would be happy to do it, if that's what we want.

On the other hand, I'm inclined to believe Al that if this guy is worth bringing and has something special, then we should bring him. Al?

> > Also, I've talked to Herman Beavers about Cornelius Eady, and he's >offered to introduce him and has told me that African-American Studies >would be able to contribute some towards his honorarium.

The issue Josh raised was that Eady would be speaking the next night at the Painted Bride if people really wanted to see him. I, however, think that he's probably worth bringing -- based on my (very) limited reading of his stuff and the observation that his "market value" is probably 2-3 times what we're asked to pay. But as y'all know, I'm just a caveman.

In response to some of the other issues brought up tonight, I think that one of the important things to remember is that we really *should* spend every dime that we have available to us this year, and grovel for more. It generally looks good to prospective funders if we have had so much interest and so many events going on that we have run out of money and need more. Much better than sitting on the budget and waiting for things to pan out. On the other hand, we don't want to freeze out those who are still being negotiated for. woooh. sloppy sentence there. sorry. I guess I'm in the boat with Shawn; spend now and we'll worry about funding when we need it.

Right now, I'm virtually a yes vote for Eady and a question on Schultz. . .


From root Thu Nov 21 06:55:44 1996
From: dinawest@sas.upenn.edu (Dina S Westenholz)

As Vance told you, there was a little uproar around the mention of Committees, which was hastily dismissed as a semantic misunderstanding and not - heaven forbid - an actual proposal of forming those heinous bureaucratic monstrosities.

I will hold back for now on stating my own views, not yet having knocked them against enough hard walls to be sure of them, but I do want to speak about why the question came up.

It was news to me, to some degree, to discover that the Hub is the Decision Making body on alot of the crucial matters in the WH. Granted, this is wonderful, we all create the WH together. But this also means that it is the *responsibility* of the 20-odd persons in the hub to ensure the future functioning of the WH. If things are to be carried out properly, i.e. with due investment of thought, judgment and practicality, then these responsibilities must be taken gravely. The decisions must be made by an informed majority, rather than an uninformed minority (which was what we were tonight).

If the scope of the WH, which is already broader than what any person can properly keep abreast of, will continue to grow, a vision I'm certain we all share, then it is not hard to imagine the disarray we will fall into if we continue in this forum. Just as an example: As the number of proposed writers grows, it will become increasingly inconceivable that hubbers will read through the samples in the upstairs reading room. It barely even happens now: Not for lack of inclination (which is why, Nijmie, I think it is dangerous to trust that if people want to and are interested, they will do it), but because we all have a zillion give-or-take other things to do, such is the nature of our college lives, and it falls between the cracks. If we have time to attend the Readings themselves, we're lucky. How then can we vote on whether to bring them or not? How important is it to spend the money wisely and bring in carefully chosen individuals? If it is, should we not make sure that the process by which we propose, weigh and choose them is well-advised and prudently constructed? I hate to seem anal (hey, if peter stallybrass could say it as much as he did tonight, then i can use it on the hub!), but 'Arbitrary' makes me wince.

And this is only touching upon the aspect of visiting writers. What about the multitude of other things that happen at the House? How can 20 people all be informed, in detail, of all those things in order to be the steering force of the organization? I think you all know where I would be taking this train of thought, but I will pause ere i go there. Perhaps there are other interpretations of the Process I should know of, and would happily welcome.>[? -Dina

From ejwitney Thu Nov 21 16:04:38 1996

the issues last night stemmed from funding. do we want to spend our money on a few poets (bringing poets who demand larger honoraria) or small amounts on a number of poets. i came out of the meeting beleiving that as long as we were still trying to get our name out into the poetry community as a viable option for speaking engagements, and as long as the house was interested in cultivating young writing, we should be getting as many quality writers there as possible. building a foundation is what we are doing.

josh raised an incredibly valid point, though: if he had wanted to take the intitiative at the beginning of the semester and call a number of really good contemporary poets, the budget would have been disbursed in a particular way. as we know, he has brought only Ben and Juliana. we definitely want to be rewarding people taking the initiative, but if there is the possibility for one person to take a significant amount of the budget, that might be a problem. the reason it might be a problem is that josh will graduate. there needs to be some policy in place that will cultivate the next generation of planning committee members. we need to start thinking NOW how to get more people involved.

the planning "committee" is a committee, to be sure, so we needn't bash committees at Writers House. the committee is entirely open to anyone who wants to get more involved, but as it now stands we (as planning committee members) are required to participate in a number of "planning" decisions that are not in areas of our expertise.

it's really difficult to expect the current planning committee to have the time, drive, energy, etc...to devote to every aspect of the House, and to think about pressing the boundaries of what we do, in positive ways. most of us are involved with 3 other large time commitments, plus school, and that is a large part of why the house has such a nice "hub" flavor. we're bringing entirely unique perspectives of expertise to the house.

when we called the house "Writers House," we imposed on Penn a community of a whole lot of people. we said, "here, writers, here's your place to be," and i think that was beautifully subversive. my call for "committees" was based on the premise that if the house were departmentalized, and people could get heavily involved not with a general "planning committee" but instead on music, or poetry, or (my particular area of expertise) Scared Amateur Performers, we could then target people on campus that we think are capable of making that aspect of the house EXEMPLARY, and get them involved.

we have to start looking at this house as a permanent (but entirely malleable) fixture of the Penn campus that is hopefully going to last far longer than anyone currently on the planning committee. by taking ourselves extremely seriously, and dedicating ourselves to making every part of the house the best it can be, then that can only be a good thing.


From root Thu Nov 21 22:07:49 1996
From: taronsky@sas.upenn.edu (Tali R Aronsky)

dera hub-ers,

i have read the posts from vance, elliott, dina, dave and schuster, who all fwd their minutes from last night's hub meeting.

what i wanted to add was my own impression:

a) we want to maintain the writers house's feeling of flexibility.

b) there is a fear of committee, but i don;t hink it's a bad idea. i know if i were personally on the submissions committee, i would get my butt to the rear reading room to check out submissions of possible readers at the house.

c) those who do--get, those who don't--don't. no surprises there.

d) a general love for the Houses' nabby seats and chipped tables and wooden floors. a Wow feeling of how the house , as mike magee put it "really feels like there's something going on there all the time."

well said, my friends,


From root Thu Nov 21 23:08:01 1996
From: dzurinko@sas.upenn.edu (Nijmie Z Dzurinko)

hi, i've been sick today and so am catching up late on all of this dialogue.

my basic stance on last night's meeting which I re-iterate now is that I don't believe that committees create responsibility. it was finally clarified that what Elliott meant was not the creation of in-house "committees", but putting more energy into reaaching out to groups of people on campus who could bring more to the house; i.e., more of a music scene, etc. This is a great idea.

My case in point is the alternate Wed. night review of upcoming writers' work, which barely anyone has been participating in. So my question is, if there are all these people out there waiting to be involved in certain aspects of the house, and we just need to form committees for them to come and participate, then why didn't this one work? I know you all heard me say this last night, so now i'll say something new.

If anyone wants to organize around a specific aspect of the house, that's great, and by all means: go ahead!! But i don't think that anything should be instituted by the powers that be. I'd like to get a gauge of how people perceive their relationship to the house, because i really have no idea of that. I know of only a few people who are committed both in theory and practice. I think there should be more open dialogue on the listserve. I know that when I first started working here, I felt like there were a lot of things I just wasn't aware of. I think there's still somewhat of a "if you're in the right place at the right time, you'll know" flavor. I think that all decisions being made, all new developments, all proposals, and the thoughts and reactions of everyone receiving this message should be made public.

To go back to the idea of responsibility, I think that there is a sense of freedom around Writers House that is a great thing. Meaning, if you have an idea, you can theorize, work it out, work with others, bring it up, and we can probably find a way to do it or a related form of it. This takes a lot of personal initiative but it is the best form of participation. Last night it was mentioned several times that it is inefficient for Hub members to be informed and "responsible" for every aspect of the house. Hub members, do you feel informed and responsible for every aspect of the house? We need to find a better way to do things.

People who want to be concerned with what writers come to the house, speak up. If you want to be concerned with music in the house, speak up. If you want to bring a community service element to the house, speak up. Etc. Etc. Etc. i think there is no need to ration up "responsibilities" when we don't yet have enough of an idea what people are wanting, willing, and able to accomplish.