I studied the poplar outside the attic window: buds, buds, buds, and then—all I did was to go downstairs for coffee—soft green leaves, so promising, not yet hardened into that vibrating poplar-ness. My signal: it’s time for my favorite procrastination—the spring letter! Can you picture me rejoicing? Try. I can count what I love on the fingers of one hand: large dogs, good red wine, the hangover chapter of Lucky Jim, and the occasion of the spring letter. How not? It signals that the nail-biting intensities of the admissions period are over, and it marks the symbolic bend in the road, after which, straight on ahead, Oz-like (if a period of 10 days can be likened to a city), glows the residency. Do not evaluate that last sentence on its writerly merits, but I’m going to STET it.
Let’s add pasta with truffles to make it five.
It has been nothing if not a lively season out there in the world of letters. The non-awarding of a Pulitzer in fiction has raised the question of whether fiction matters, and I suppose that the importance of gravity and love will be under scrutiny soon. To reassure you: we at Bennington still think fiction matters. And in the world of non-fiction—earth to fiction’s moon--it has been proposed that whether something did or didn’t happen as reported is a creative choice, determined by the writer’s desired effect as opposed to any dully verifiable actuality. To reassure you here, too: we at Bennington still think the real happening of things is grist enough for our mills—and kids here still respect the college Dean…As for poetry, I can’t think of any earthshaking controversies, but I will tip my hat again to Tracy K. Smith and the very great honor of her Pulitzer Prize.
Onward. There is much to say. I want to start by welcoming a superb group of incoming writers. The geographic diversity is, as ever, heartening. It is possible to write outside of Brooklyn—though possible, too, to write in Brooklyn. Members of our new class of 27 hail from, among other locales, Florida, California, Iowa, Canada, Texas, New Jersey, Michigan, Tennessee, Louisana, New York, and Uganda. I want to thank our faculty readers-- Mark Wunderlich and Tim Liu in Poetry, Dinah Lenney in Nonfiction, Paul Yoon and Lynne Sharon Schwartz in Fiction—and thanks, too, for the tireless exertions carried out with effortless genuine good humor by Dawn and Victoria.
Faculty business: Sheila Kohler and Major Jackson will be taking leaves of absence for the upcoming term, and Ed Ochester and Amy Gerstler will be back with us from their leaves. Welcome to Shannon Cain, who will join us as Fiction faculty for the term:
The menu for the residency—guests, seminars, lectures, and readings—is protein-rich, carb-abundant, and dessert-laden, featuring:
- A faculty lecture in poetry by Tim Liu
- Craft sessions in Nonfiction and Fiction by Dinah Lenney, Alice Mattison, and Rachel Pastan (details on all of the offerings will be given soon)
- Lectures and readings by Writers in Residence Donald Hall, Rick Moody, and Lyndall Gordon
- An associate faculty lecture and reading by Geoff Dyer
- A seminar/conversation with Visiting Writer James Wood
- Life-of-Letters presentations by editor Matt Weiland and returning alums Megan Mayhew Bergman (2010), and Jamie Quatro (2009).
- And of course we will have the annual softball game, the musical pulsations of the Dog House Band, countless exhibitions of in-house performative talent, and whatever surprises you and our Student Life coordinators devise.
We will give you detailed postings of all residency doings as the residency itself draws closer.
On another front: I want to call your attention to the substantive (and still on-going) renovations of the Writing Seminars website.
As for those poplar leaves—they have already firmed up, are already making that shimmer whenever there is a gust of wind. So much for fiction and non-fiction: this is poetry. See you all very soon.