Women Practicing Buddhism, the American Experiences
Editor’s note: All events are free and open to the public except for Meredith Monk’s concert on April 9. For concert ticket information, visit https://www.smith.edu/smitharts or call (413) 585-ARTS. For a high-res image of Jane Hirshfield or other presenters, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Swelling ranks of women practicing Buddhism will gather for a four-day conference at Smith College April 7-10 to celebrate their particular experiences of this centuries-old religion as it spreads and takes root within the United States.
Since 1987, when the International Association of Buddhist Women was founded, the numbers of women practicing worldwide has grown to 300 million. This North American conference, called simply “Women Practicing Buddhism: American Experiences,” is a collaboration among members of the Five Colleges and the local Buddhist community.
Prize-winning poet Jane Hirshfield, public intellectual bell hooks, and performance artist Meredith Monk will, respectively, give a reading, public lecture and concert Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
During the day, participants are invited to attend talks, panels, a celebration of the Buddha’s birthday, a student dance performance, a sculptural installation and more than 30 workshops. Among the issues that will be discussed are Buddhism in relation to race, ethnicity and class, social activism, creativity, sexuality, healing, meditation practice, the workplace, family and day-to-day experiences. In addition, conference participants will examine how women are changing Buddhism.
“This movement, emerging from the margins into the international spotlight, is an example of how women can unite their resources and talents, work in harmony and make significant contributions to global understanding,” said Karma Lekshe Tsomo, founder of the International Association of Buddhist Women and assistant professor of theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego, who will speak about the context of the international Buddhist women’s movement.
Jane Hirshfield, poet, essayist and translator
7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 7, Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall
Hirshfield’s poetry has been called “passionate and radiant” by the New York Times Book Review, and her collection of essays “Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry” (HarperCollins, 1997) was found by the Japan Times to be “indispensable.” A practitioner of Soto Zen for more than 30 years, she is the author of five books of poems, most recently “Given Sugar, Given Salt” (HarperCollins, 2001), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award. She has also edited and co-translated three now-classic collections documenting the spiritual and emotional lives of women poets from the past. Her honors include fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts. Hirshfield has been featured numerous times on Garrison Keillor’s “WritersAlmanac” NPR program, as well as in two Bill Moyers PBS specials.
bell hooks, visionary feminist thinker, cultural critic and writer
8 p.m. Friday, April 8, John M. Greene Hall, lecture “Buddhism Beyond Gender”
bell hooks, a Distinguished Professor of English at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, is among the leading intellectuals of her generation. Her writings address a range of topics, including gender, race, teaching and media in contemporary culture. Since her first book, “Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism,” was published in 1981, hooks has written 22 books. Her first book was named one of the “20 most influential women’s books of the last 20 years” by Publishers Weekly. Her love trilogy also received critical acclaim. The trilogy—“All About Love,” “Salvation: Black People and Love” and “Communion: The Female Search for Love”—outlines her assertions and questions about the one topic that has occupied and inspired philosophy and art for centuries. Her most recent publications include “The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love”; “We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity”; and “Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope.” She is also becoming known as a children’s book author.
Meredith Monk, composer, singer, director/choreographer
8 p.m. Saturday, April 9, Sweeney Concert Hall, Sage Hall, concert
Monk, a pioneer in what is now called “extended vocal technique” and “interdisciplinary performance,” creates works that thrive at the intersection of music and movement, image and object, light and sound in an effort to discover and weave together new modes of perception. Her ground-breaking exploration of the voice as an instrument, as an eloquent language in and of itself, expands the boundaries of musical composition, creating landscapes of sound that unearth feelings, energies and memories. The creator of new opera, musical theater works and films and installations, she has alternately been proclaimed a “voice of the future” and “one of America’s coolest composers.” During a career that spans 40 years, she has received acclaim as a major creative force in the performing arts.
For the full schedule or to register for the conference, go online to https://www.smith.edu/buddhism. Although not required, men and women who would like to participate in the events are encouraged to register.
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