LeftWrite! 30 Years Later

Kaplan Harris. Photo: Andrew Kenower

On December 4th, 2011, Small Press Traffic continued its look back at the Bay Area Poetry scene by revisiting the LeftWrite! Conference of 1981 organized by Steve Abbott, Bruce Boone, Bob Gluck and others. Attended by some 300 writers of diverse backgrounds and poetics, the Conference had the goal of building a coalition of writers from a variety of Leftist perspectives. The conference proved to be contentious; throughout it the participants wrestled over how to bridge their differences and work together though they consistently disagreed about the core issues of class, sexuality, and gender.

Bob Gluck. Photo: Andrew Kenower
 Kaplan Harris began the evening by situating the Conference in its historical moment while he also described how it was organized, who did what, and then went on to outline the substance of the event. You can read his notes hereBob Gluck and Bruce Boone each provided their own recollections and located the conference in the context of their lives and political and poetic commitments while also discussing the current Occupy movements. Providing a sense of the variety of people and voices, Bob read a series of quotes from a number of the participants. You can read these here. Bruce remarked upon the enormous generosity of all the Conference participants, while also noting "the great divide, like the Rocky Mountains" that lesbian, gay, and women's issues constituted against the backdrop of a continuing struggle between the Old and New Left. Bruce also referred to the homophobia that reared its ugly head, igniting anxiety, anger and fear. Both Bob and Bruce discussed how the conference organizers and participants attempted to answer the question: how do we maintain differences and yet work together? A Left Writers Union was established during the conference; however, the prioritization of class over all other frameworks for analyzing and responding to oppression ended up with many--including Gluck, Boone and Abbott--feeling frustrated and outraged with the project. The life experience of organizing a Left writers’ movement erupted into a fragmented and polarizing endeavor, as identity categories were plotted along a hierarchical structure

The LeftWrite! Conference constitutes an important moment in Bay Area literary and political history and it was a treat to get to hear Kaplan, Bob and Bruce talk about it.

Bruce Boone. Photo: Andrew Kenower

Thanks to Andrew Kenower for his fabulous photos. Andrew maintains AVoice Box: Bay Area Recordings of the Recent Past

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