Vanessa Place Removed from AWP 2016 Subcommittee

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After many took to Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets to publicly express their discontent and, in some cases, outrage with Conceptual Poet Vanessa Place’s appropriation of Gone with the Wind  via her Twitter feed, Place has been removed from the AWP Los Angeles 2016 Subcommittee.

Place’s latest project tweets, line by line, Margaret Mitchell’s Civil War era novel Gone with the Wind, and her Twitter profile picture features the racist, caricatured mammy image. Those protesting Place’s seat on the AWP Subcommittee note the hurtfulness of appropriating images and words that have historically been harmful to black people.

Yesterday, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs released this official statement regarding their decision to remove Place from the Subcommittee:

AWP has removed Vanessa Place from the AWP Los Angeles 2016 Subcommittee.

We did so after taking into consideration the controversy her Twitter feed has generated. Place has been tweeting the text of Gone with the Wind and using a photograph of Hattie McDaniel as the profile picture. The context of this and similar work is explained by a few literary theorists and advocates of conceptual poetry, such as Jacob Edmond and Brian M. Reed.

AWP believes in freedom of expression. We also understand that many readers find Vanessa Place’s unmediated quotes of Margaret Mitchell’s novel to be unacceptable provocations, along with the images on her Twitter page.

AWP must protect the efficacy of the conference subcommittee’s work. The group’s work must focus on the adjudication of the 1,800 submitted proposals, not upon the management of a controversy that has stirred strong objections and much ill-will toward AWP and the subcommittee. Perpetuating the controversy would not be fair to the many writers who have submitted the proposals.

—AWP

 

Place’s controversial project comes in the aftermath of fellow Conceptual Poet Kenneth Goldsmith’s “The Body of Michael Brown,” a poem he delivered at Brown University. The poem consists of Brown’s autopsy report, though Goldsmith made some small edits. The performance sparked heated debates in the poetry community, and Goldsmith issued an apology and removed the transcript of the poem from the web.

So far, Vanessa Place has not publicly responded to the criticisms of her work or to her removal from the AWP Subcommittee, and many suggest she is a provocateur, delighting in the controversy surrounding her project.

Here’s one interpretation of Place’s recent project. Also, read this response to Goldsmith’s “The Body of Michael Brown.”