“The community we need is often not where we expected it.
Like finding love, finding the community we need and want requires patience and a bit of luck.”

Carl Phillips, My Trade Is Mystery: Seven Meditations from a Life in Writing

In the seventh and final essay, or “meditation,” from his 2022 book on the writing life, Carl Phillips explores the different ways those who find meaning in the mostly solitary pursuits of reading and writing can find community and the often unexpected ways these communities are formed. As I was reading these meditations recently, I realized that, for many of us, attending our first, or second, or twenty-fifth Sigma Tau Delta Convention is a way of finding a community that allows us to explore our own multiple interests in language and art, education and debate, conversation and communion.

The fact that this 2024 Sigma Tau Delta Centennial Convention celebrates the 100-year history of this thriving community is testament to the enduring value of the annual gathering of like-minded people and the central importance of making meaning from language and its many, many forms.

To help us celebrate this variety we are lucky to have with us at our gathering in St. Louis from Tuesday, April 3, through Saturday, April 6, a roster of distinguished speakers who will share with us their insights, struggles, and strategies that have helped them form their diverse communities.

Carl Phillips, Pulitzer Prize winner for his 2023 collection and our Common Reader, Then the War, will read from this book, a collection of his latest poems as well as selections from work from the last two decades, on Friday afternoon. He will also offer insights about the writing life from his extensive publications, including several books of essays, during his “conversation” session on Saturday morning.

On Thursday evening, Maryfrances Wagner, recent poet laureate of our host state, Missouri, will describe some of her work promoting writing communities throughout the state and read from her numerous books of poetry. During that reading and her “conversation” session on Saturday morning, she will draw on her experiences editing the literary journal I-70 Review and her work with the Missouri Haiku Project and The Writers Project.

As part of our opening session on Wednesday evening, representatives from well-known St. Louis bookseller Left Bank Books will give us a survey of the city and region’s distinguished literary history. They will be followed by “special guest” Donika Kelly, poet and professor, a Sigma Tau Deltan herself, who remembers attending an earlier convention in St. Louis as a student. She will read from her recent work and answer questions about her unfolding career.

As part of our Professional Development workshops, Sophia Sarigianides, popular teacher, lecturer, and English Education specialist, will give two interactive presentations, on Thursday morning and afternoon, on her work in the important field of anti-racist pedagogy, useful for future classroom teachers but also for those interested in being informed and responsible citizens.

Also on Thursday afternoon, Janine Utell, award-winning author, editor, and journalist, will bring insights from her work in academia, publishing, and the Modern Language Association in separate presentations for students and faculty on making successful English-related careers.

In addition, our four days of Convention—”coming together”—will feature a cornucopia of other communal activities, including critical essay and creative writing panels, workshops for students and Faculty Advisors, roundtable discussions on timely and controversial issues, chapter sharing of community projects, advice for job seekers, open mics and “bad” poetry night, a literary trivia contest, and more.

We look forward to celebrating these overlapping but interrelated communities with you at the Sigma Tau Delta 2024 Centennial Convention in April as we look backward to the history of our organization and the disciplines of English-related studies “in flux” and forward to the next 100 years of our Society and the communities that will form as part of it.

Glen Brewster
2024 Convention Chair