Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category


Upcoming Event: Fall for the Book Festival, Sept. 26-30

September 19, 2012

Neil Gaiman

The annual Fall for the Book Festival is one of the biggest events on my calendar each year — and with good reason, since I’m on the staff that helps to put the festival together! But it should also be one of the starred events on the calendars of all readers and writers in Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland, since the program regularly welcomes some of the biggest names in the literary world to our backyard. And this year — the festival’s 14th — is no exception, with headliners including Alice Walker (celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Color Purple), Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, Rita Dove, and Katherine Boo, among the nearly 125 participants on this year’s schedule. Each of these writers anchors one of the festival’s five days, Sept. 26-30, as follows:

  • Rita Dove, former Poet Laureate of the United States and recent recipient of the prestigious National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama, will receive this year’s Busboys and Poets Award on Fall for the Book’s opening night, Wednesday, September 26, at 8 p.m. in Harris Theatre on George Mason University’s Fairfax, Virginia, campus. Dove’s most recent collection is Sonata Mulattica. The Busboys and Poets Award is sponsored by Busboys and Poets, a restaurant, bookstore, fair trade market and gathering place based in Washington, DC.
  • Alice Walker will discuss The Color Purple, her other writings, and her social and political activism on Thursday, September 27, at 3 p.m. in the Concert Hall, Center for the Arts, on Mason’s Fairfax campus. Among Walker’s most recent publications is Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo, and Palestine/Israel.
  • Neil Gaiman will accept the 2012 Mason Award, recognizing authors who have made extraordinary contributions to bringing literature to a wide reading public, on Friday, September 28, at 7:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall of Mason’s Center for the Arts. Gaiman is the creator and writer of the DC Comics series Sandman, winner of 12 Eisner Comic Industry Awards and a World Fantasy Award for best short story—making it the first comic ever to receive a literary award. Other works include American Gods; The Graveyard Book, the only title ever to win both the US’s and UK’s most prestigious awards given to children’s books, the Newbery and the Carnegie Medals; and Coraline, the latter the basis for the Oscar Nominated 2009 film.
  • Katherine Boo will accept this year’s Mary Roberts Rinehart Award, presented annually to a woman writer of nonfiction, on Saturday, September 29, at 7:30 p.m. at the Sherwood Center, 3740 Old Lee Highway, in Fairfax, Virginia. Boo’s first book is Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which presents portraits of hope, injustice, and violence in the city of Mumbai, India. The Mary Roberts Rinehart Award commemorates the life and work of Rinehart, who for 45 years prior to her death in 1958 was one of America’s most popular writers.
  • Michael Chabon will accept this year’s Fairfax Prize, honoring outstanding literary achievement and presented by the Fairfax Library Foundation, on the festival’s closing night, Sunday, September 30, at 6 p.m. in the Concert Hall of Mason’s Center for the Arts. Chabon’s novels include The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a Pulitzer Prize winner among its other honors; The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, winner of both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards; and Telegraph Avenue, just released earlier this month.

But there’s also plenty more to be excited about, with a schedule that includes everything from mystery to history and from poetry to philosophy — along with a few topics as fresh as each morning’s headlines, such as the future of higher education and the issues driving the upcoming election. The full festival, with dates, times, and venues, can be found at — but here are just a few of the other events I’ve already tagged for my own calendar:

  • Wednesday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. — Karen Russell, whose debut novel, Swamplandia!, joined Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams and David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King as this year’s finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.
  • Thursday, Sept. 27, 10:30 a.m. — Clifford Garstang, debuting his new novel-in-stories, What the Zhang Boys Know, along with short story writer Edward Belfar
  • Thursday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m. — David Taylor, Andrew Wingfield, and David Ebenbach — recipients of the 2008, 2010, and 2012 fiction prizes from the Washington Writers’ Publishing House — reflecting on the craft of developing a short fiction collection
  • Friday, Sept. 28, 1:30 p.m. — Contributors to Amazing Graces: Yet Another Collection of Fiction by Washington Area Women, edited by Richard Peabody, including Julie Agnone, Beth Konkoski, Tara Laskowski, Teresa Burns Murphy, Susan Sharpe, and Eugenia Tsutsumi (plus events featuring Christopher Coake and Dallas Hudgens just beforehand and featuring Nick Arvin and Matt Bondurant just afterwards)
  • Friday, Sept. 28, 5:30 p.m. — Mystery Writers of America panel featuring Thomas Kaufman, Tracy Kiely, Sandra Parshall, and Joanna Campbell Slan, and moderated by Alan Orloff
  • Saturday, Sept. 29, 10 a.m. — A self-publishing panel with Karen Cantwell, Matt Iden, Scott Nicholson, and Michael and Robin Sullivan
  • Saturday, Sept. 29, 6 p.m. — Bestselling novelist Laura Lippman with her new book, And When She Was Good
  • Sunday, Sept. 30, 1:30 p.m. —  National Book Critics Circle Panel examining literary fiction and genre fiction and featuring acclaimed novelists Julianna Baggott, Louis Bayard, and Alma Katsu, and critic and co-founder Laura Miller

Hope to see you at the festival! — Art Taylor


Interview: William Wright, editor of The Southern Poetry Anthology

September 26, 2010

I’m pleased to welcome occasional contributor Brandon Wicks back to Art & Literature once more. This week, Wicks interviews William Wright, an award-winning poet now working on what’s shaping up to be one of the most ambitious projects in contemporary Southern letters. Wicks handles the official introduction and takes the post from here.

William Wright is the series editor of The Southern Poetry Anthology, a multi-volume collection of contemporary southern poetry. Volumes I and II, South Carolina and Mississippi, were co-edited with the late Stephen Gardner. The third, Contemporary Appalachia, co-edited with Jesse Graves and Paul Ruffin, is forthcoming in Spring 2011. Wright is the author of a chapbook, The Ghost Narratives, and a full-length poetry collection, Dark Orchard, which was the 2005 winner of the Texas Review Breakthrough Poetry Prize.

Brandon Wicks: You’re now at work finishing up the third volume of the Southern Poetry Anthology. It would seem a daunting process for any writer to transition into editing such an ambitious project. How did this idea take shape? How did it gain traction?

To be frank, the idea for The Southern Poetry Anthology took shape due to supreme naïveté on my part, and it was sheer luck that the idea was acted upon. I own only a few anthologies dedicated specifically to poetry of the American South, because only a few exist—Leon Stokesbury’s The Made Thing, the beautiful second edition that came out of the University of Arkansas in 1999; 45/96: The Ninety-Six Sampler of South Carolina Poetry (Ninety-Six Press), edited by Gilbert Allen; The Yellow Shoe Poets, 1964-1999: Selected Poems (LSU Press), edited by George Garrett; Locales (LSU Press), a collection edited by Fred Chappell; and Invited Guest: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Southern Poetry (University Press of Virginia), edited by David Rigsbee and Steven Ford Brown. (There are certainly more regional anthologies, but I haven’t gotten a hold of them yet.) I found all of these anthologies to be wonderful for me—formative influences for my own work that lead me to discover these voices more deeply in the author-specific Selected Poems and Collected Poems editions, not to mention stand-alone books. But these works never seemed to dig deeply enough. I knew—thanks mostly to Stephen Gardner and a few other mentors—that lots of great poetry being written in the southern states was relatively unsung, visible only in a few journals here or there, perhaps in a chapbook or two.

In 2003, I first started thinking this way, and so, inconveniently—among teaching, term papers, presentations, and my own writing—The Question arose: Why don’t I edit a series of books—state-by-state with a few regions considered, too, and take a contemporary snapshot of poetry in the American South as it is in the present moment? How presumptuous!

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NC Events: National Poetry Month Events at Triangle Bookstores

April 2, 2010

National Poetry Month 2010Each year in honor of National Poetry Month (that’s April, in case you didn’t know), the Regulator Bookshop in Durham hosts a series of Tuesday night poetry readings — and this year’s line-up looks great for the next three weeks. No word (yet?) on whether there will be an event on the final Tuesday of the month, but in the meantime, check out:

  • Florence NashFish Music, and Grey BrownWhen They Tell Me, on Tuesday, April 6
  • Tony AbbottNew & Selected Poems, 1989-2009, and Debra KaufmanMoon Mirror Whiskey Wind, on Tuesday, April 13
  • David ManningContinents of Light, and Bruce LaderLandscapes of Longing, on Tuesday, April 20

Additionally, both of the Triangle’s other big independents will be presenting poetry-themed events. On Sunday, April 11, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh offers up a trio of North Carolina poets: Nancy CarterNear the End of the Rainy Season, Peter MakuckLong Lens, and Scott OwensPaternity.

And McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village continues its monthly series in conjunction with the North Carolina Poetry Society with a reading by Lenard MooreA Temple Looming, and John AmenAt the Threshold of Academy, on Sunday, April 25.

For more information on National Poetry Month, check out the official website from the American Academy of Poets here.

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NC Events: A Busy Week!

March 3, 2010

From Kelly Cherry tonight (Wednesday, March 3) to Jodi Picault next Monday, there’s a lot of great readings on the North Carolina lit calendar over the next few days.

First up, Kelly Cherry shares selections from her new collection, Girl in a Library: On Women Writers and the Writing Life, tonight at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. While Cherry’s reputation across a broad swath of genres speaks for itself, Booklist gave high praise to the new collection in particular: “Piquant essays on family history and her coming-of-age are deepened by reflections on beauty, art, and vocation. In fresh and inquiring portraits of exceptional southern women writers — Eudora Welty, Elizabeth Hardwick, Mary Ward Brown, Bobbie Ann Mason — Cherry explores the nature of a literary life.”

Another highly praised author, Chris Bohjalian of Midwives fame, brings his new novel to several Triangle-area bookstores this week. Secrets of Eden has been earning mixed reviews, including those in the Washington Post and the Seattle Timesthough the Miami Herald was more positive.  He’ll be at Quail Ridge on Thursday, March 4; at Durham’s Regulator Bookshop on Friday, March 5; and at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village on Saturday March 6. Plenty of opportunities to check out the author and book for yourself.

Two other authors are also making the rounds. George Bishop, a graduate of the MFA program at UNC-Wilmington and now a resident of New Orleans, has written a debut novel that’s already earning high marks. The Wilmington Star-News ran a feature on Letter to My Daughter last month in advance of his reading at his alma mater tonight. He’ll also be appearing in the Triangle twice in the days ahead: at the Regulator on Thursday, March 4, and at Quail Ridge on Friday, March 5.

And Washington Post reporter Anne Kornblut brings her Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win to both the Regulator (Saturday, March 6) and to McIntyre’s (Sunday, March 7). Check out this interview with Kornblut at U.S. News and World Report.

Also on Sunday, a pair of fine poets make an afternoon visit to Quail Ridge Books: Tony Abbott, a good friend of mine from my days at the N.C. Writers’ Network, will read from his recently published New & Selected Poems 1989-2009, and he’ll be joined by Larry Johnson, author of Veins.

And then, last but hardly least, Jodi Picoult reads from her new novel, House Rules, at Quail Ridge Books on Monday, March 9. Just yesterday, the book earned a rave review from Maureen Corrigan at the Washington Post. If that doesn’t whet your appetite for the novel itself, I don’t know what will.

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NC Events: Mystery Caravan & A Pair Of Poets

February 24, 2010

A couple of big literary gatherings throughout the region this weekend — one of them a moveable feast of award-winning mystery writers!

First up, mystery maven Molly Weston brings a caravan of crime writers to the area for three full days of events. Hank Phillippi Ryan won the Agatha for her novel Prime Time, the first in a series of books drawing from her own experiences as an investigative reporter in Boston (and she’s won an Emmy for that work too); her latest in that series is Drive Time. Karen E. Olson has also drawn on her journalism background for a series of books featuring a New Haven police reporter, but her latest title is from her Tattoo Shop series: Pretty in Ink. And Julie Hyzy also has a series featuring a newswoman, but her latest book, Eggsecutive Orders, is from her White House Chef series. You can catch the caravan at a number of locations:

Friday, February 26

  • 12 noon — Eva Perry Library, Apex
  • 6:30 p.m. — Page-Walker Hotel (cultural arts center) in Cary, sponsored by the Cary Public Library

Saturday, February 27

  • 11 a.m. —  Mcintyre’s Fine Books, Fearrington Village
  • 5 p.m. — Jamestown Public Library, Jamestown, NC

Sunday, February 28

  • 12 noon — Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill

In addition to hosting the mystery writers on Saturday, McIntyre’s Books also continues its NC Poetry Society Series on Sunday afternoon with two very highly respected poets: Al Maginnes, author most recently of the collection Ghost Alphabet (see a great chat with him here), and Dannye Romine Powell, whose most recent book of poetry, A Necklace of Bees, just adds to career additionally distinguished by her work with the Charlotte Observer and her terrific collection Parting the Curtains: Interviews with Southern Writers. That event begins at 2 p.m.

For more events, check out the MetroBooks Calendar here.

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