This weekend is a special one for us at the UW MFA—we’re welcoming 6 newly accepted writers for a weekend visit. There will be lunches, potlucks, hikes (weather permitting), a reading, and many other impromptu activities. We hope they take a liking to our little town and decide to come back in the fall as students.
But for now: welcome to town, new friends! Enjoy the weekend!
Time for townfolk and writingfolk alike to come out and hear the MFA cohort read from their newest and most exciting work! In the words of series planner, Lam Pham:
You are cordially invited to join us this coming Friday at the Gryphon Theatre for the final installment of the MFA Reading Series. It’s been a wild and crazy ride, but as all good things must come to an end, so must the reading series for this academic year. We want to thank you for your support and hope to see you for our Spring Finale.
Korie Johnson (fiction)
Olivia Wall (poetry)
Manasseh Franklin (nonfiction)
musical performances by:
*the doors will open at 6:30pm.
Thanks to poet and activist Rachel Levitsky, who joined us for a Q&A this week and gave a public reading at our favorite in-town venue, Night Heron Café. In the Q&A, we spoke about:
• Feminist Poetics
• Belladonna* Press
• The Sentence
A great time was had by all! Thanks for coming to visit us, Rachel!
Our second reading of the semester went off without a hitch. Congrats to Nick Mangigian (fiction’15), Auesta Safi (poetry ’15) and alum Jason Burge for stunning, beguiling & rocking a packed house at the Night Heron café!
How was it? Let’s say vivacious/tender/lonely/songful—across the board!
Way to go cohort! Here’s to the next!
MFA Faculty member Kate Northrop has been awarded the Jeannette Haien Ballard Writer’s Prize, an annual prize given to a young writer of proven excellence in poetry or prose.
Established to honor author Jeannette Haien’s interest in the work of talented young writers and her desire to benefit and further their careers by encouraging the production of literary works of high quality and aesthetic worth, the prize has previously been given to Joanna Klink (U of Montana) and Suzanne Buffam (U of Chicago).
Northrop, who is a core member of the MFA Faculty, is the author of three collections of poetry: Clean (2011), Things are Disappearing Here (2007), which was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and was also a finalist for the Academy of American Poets’ James Laughlin Award, and Back Through Interruption (2002), which won Kent State University Press’s Stan & Tom Wick Poetry Prize.
We’re very proud of her! Congratulations on the prize Kate!
This week we’re welcoming avant-garde poet and activist Rachel Levitsky to our (figurative) shores. She’ll be giving a craft talk for MFA students on Friday at the Carriage House and giving a public reading (free! come!) at the Night Heron Bookshop & Café Friday evening at 7pm. It’s going to be lovely having her here and we’re all tickled with excitement.
Here’s a little about Levitsky, for those not in “the know:”
Rachel Levitsky is well known as a poet of politically and socially engaged writing. She has collaborated with artists like photographer B. Wurtz and is the founder and co-director of Belladonna*, an event and publication series of feminist avant-garde poetics.
Her recent book The Story of My Accident is Ours (Futurepoem 2013) tackles a range of concerns: transgendered bodies, social movements, management of the emotions, and countless other subjects. She has also published two full-length collections of poetry—Under the Sun (Futurepoem 2003) and NEIGHBOR (Ugly Duckling Press 2009)—and five chapbooks. Three of her “poetic plays” have been launched as theatrical productions.
It’s gonna be grand! Join in the fun!
Last semester in Jeff Lockwood’s short-form nonfiction workshop, MFA and MA writers were invited to read their essays for a special feature on Wyoming Public Radio. Of the experience, Lockwood has stated:
“In this workshop, we explored a weird and wide array of short forms of the students’ choosing within the genre of non-fiction. We often associate the short form with poetry and fiction. But what about the epitaph, the police blotter, the recipe, the box score, the report card, the seed packet, the rejection letter, the menu, the movie review, the shopping list, the wine label, the headline or the photo caption?
“Students were encouraged to probe the possibilities and test the limits of the short-form as a means of opening creative possibilities and expanding (or exploding) assumptions about seemingly prosaic expressions of our humanity. In the end, their writings were adapted from: the drug label, real estate advertisement, advice column, obituary, recipe, postcard, test, forecast, billboard, credit card statement and map.”
Read more on the Public Radio Site, and listen to our lovely writers here:
• Ginger Ko (MFA Poetry ’14),
• Manasseh Franklin (MFA Nonfiction ’14),
• and Eric Krszjzniek (MA Literature ’14)
Pictures from the MFA reading last Friday (!) :
Beautiful, talented people with some BANGIN’ stories and songs.
MFA students Lam Pham, Joey Rubin, Ella Fishman, and Nick Mangigian from left to right at the q&a.
Joey with Dinaw Mengestu after the q&a.
Dinaw Mengestu is 1. smart 2. wise 3. funny and 4. can look back on the rough few years post his mfa lightheartedly.
Mengestu published his first novel The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears in 2007. The novel he worked on at Columbia he never published. Mengestu expressed that he built that first novel “out of nowhere,’ that the novel was based on big philosophical ideas (poverty, violence, etc. etc.) and the characters only ever had first names like “Bob.” He knew that when he had an Ethiopian name on page 10 of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears that he had a real novel. He said, “it didn’t feel like I was building something out of nowhere.” And then BAM. A great novel was written. And Mengestu could finally relax during his lunch breaks at his temp job.
When Joey asked Mengestu to reflect on the immigrant experience in the novel, Mengestu replied, “everyone has a break in their lives – divorce, death, growing older,” and that the novel was a way to talk about that, i.e. the novel is much bigger than just immigration. It is Dinaw’s empathy in the novel that has led to its success: The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears has been translated into 12 languages, and won the Guardian First Book Award.
Other tidbits (paraphrased):
regarding why he doesn’t write short stories and poems: ”respect the form enough to leave it alone”
regarding how to make death, falling in love, having children interesting: ”it’s the gestures people use” that give him a real character, and that haunt him
after someone asked him how he copes with the lonely life of writing: ”i enjoy the loneliness of writing” and that the “anxiety (of said lonely life of writing) is tempered by other writers” and he adds “it matters to me that he/she wrote it” (note: Mengestu adores Herzog and A Bend in the River)
on how going abroad was conducive for writing: it created “some space, I felt less intruded upon, not by anyone, but parts of myself” and that “being abroad forces you to think about your own language” because “you aren’t inundated with things you understand”
he cautions though: ”dangerous to go to a foreign culture and have a plan to write about it.” Being abroad for Mengestu more or less created the distance he needed from place X to reflect on it and write about it (The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears takes place in Washington, D.C. where Mengestu went for undergrad, but that he wrote while he was living in New York).
on what to take advantage of in an MFA program/writing community: ”spent a lot of time taking ourselves seriously…cause outside of that world no one will”
and finally, on writing advice: ”don’t listen to any advice on writing, you have to learn it yourself…don’t need to have feedback all the time…learn to write quietly…life is heading that way.”
Can’t wait for his reading in April!