Dear Benningtonians all,
One of the effects of not getting any younger is the recurrent feeling of ‘didn’t that just happen?’ And another is not being able to remember if it was not always thus. I have this feeling that I saw you all—or many of you—just yesterday at AWP. I did! It was in Boston, I think, and everywhere I turned, seriously, there was another member of our confederacy—former student, current student, teaching colleague, visitor…And it was just yesterday, except that when we were there, those of us who were, it was in the thick of some newly-named winter storm, and today when I went out, people were walking around in beachwear. So go figure. The point is that I’m still unpacking from the residency, and AWP is still vibrating in my cerebral cortex, and now they tell me that there’s a residency just around the corner—the June residency. And if my sense of indeterminate time makes no sense, wait a bit: it will happen to you.
Yes, it’s Spring in Massachusetts, and Spring elsewhere, and Victoria, Dawn and I have just finished bringing in the new class. There is a kind of Election Day excitement about the whole process—getting the applications, getting the responses of our faculty readers (many thanks to our crew of vetters and rankers), making the calls, talking to people from all parts of the country who are ready to put writing at the center of their lives, and then waiting for their decisions. I’m happy to announce that we have brought in a wonderfully diverse and talented group of writers, a truly formidable class-in-the-making, and I look forward to the morning in Barn 100 when I get to put faces to the names.
So…A few announcements and items of news. On the faculty front, I am delighted to welcome back faculty returning from leaves: Phillip Lopate, Brian Morton, Ed Ochester, and Lynne Sharon Schwartz. And let me add a welcome to Jill McCorkle, who is joining the regular fiction rotation. Also, a warm greeting to Peter Trachtenberg, who is joining us this term as nonfiction faculty.
We are very happy to announce our visitors and Associate Faculty for the June residency. Donald Hall will be joining us as our poetry Writer-in-Residence, as will Bob Shacochis in nonfiction. Associate Lecturers will be Kathleen Graber in poetry and Stuart Dybek in fiction. James Wood will present a talk and also occupy the Keith Moon chair in percussion. Poet E. Ethelbert Miller (sponsor of our Annual Miller Classic Softball Game) will be Commencement Speaker. In addition, there will be a rich complement of lectures and craft sessions offered by members of our distinguished faculty (details to come in the residency letter).
Finally, I’m pleased to report that the January meeting on diversity drew strong follow-up response and that a Diversity Committee is being constituted—is constituting itself—even as I write, and that a follow-up session will be planned for early in the residency. We will keep you posted on developments and will continue to seek your participation and suggestions.
- A long interview with Ben Anastas (“about the writing life and its discontents”) has just been posted on The Days of Yore website. Ben was also “honored” to be included in the latest snide broadside against confessional memoir: Cry Me a River: the Rise of the Failure Memoir by Giles Harvey in a recent issue of The New Yorker.
- Sven Birkerts has work forthcoming in Brick and The Threepenny Review.
- David Gates’ story “An Actor Prepares” is in the current issue of The Paris Review.
- Major Jackson has edited The Collected Poems of Countee Cullen for the Library of America. He has poems included in The Best American Poetry 2013, Best of the Best American Poetry, 1988-2012, and New World Poets. He has published essays and reviews in Boston Review (online), The New York Times Book Review, Solstice, and Washington Square Review. He also received the Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry from The Virginia Quarterly Review.
- The documentary Waiting for Lightning, which Bret Anthony Johnston wrote, was released in theaters by Samuel Goldwyn Films and is now available on DVD. One of Bret’s stories has just been selected for The Best American Short Stories 2013.
- Dinah Lenney will be publishing The Object Parade with Counterpoint Press next year.
- Phillip Lopate has been giving readings around the country for his two new books, Portrait Inside My Head and To Show and To Tell. He also organized a day-long conference at Columbia University, “Stalking the Essay,” with featured speakers Colm Toibin, David Shields, Patricia Hampl, Daniel Mendelsohn, Ian Buruma, Margo Jefferson and others.
- Alice Mattison has a story forthcoming in The Threepenny Review.
- Jill McCorkle has been touring around reading from her new novel, Life After Life. She was also recently featured in the…Gardening section of The New York Times.
- Ed Ochester’s poem “New Year” was selected for inclusion in The Best American Poetry 2013. A long interview, first published online with Poetry International, will be printed in the spring issue of Florida Quarterly, along with some new poems. One of Ed’s authors in the Pitt Poetry Series, Richard Blanco, was selected to be the Inaugural Poet for this year’s celebration.
- This past winter Rachel Pastan participated in the project “In Open Letters a Secret Appears,” in which a group of writers, artists and curators chose an object from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and wrote something inspired by it on a postcard of that object—postcards then mailed to project subscribers (and I’d be surprised if this sentence would itself fit on a postcard). Also, Rachel’s short, short story “Bones” appeared in the magazine Cleaver. Her new novel, Alena, will be published next year by Riverhead.
- Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s Disturbances in the Field has been selected by Kindle for a special April promotion. Her newest novel, Two-Part Inventions was recently reviewed in the Paris Review (online), and her essay on her heart operation (which Lynne read a year ago) is in the current Agni.
- New faculty member Peter Trachtenberg’s most recent book, Another Insane Devotion, published last November by DaCapo Press, was named an Editor’s Choice by The New York Times Book Review. He has given readings from the book in Brooklyn, Portland, Oregon, and Iowa City.
- Mark Wunderlich has new poems forthcoming in Plume, The Literary Review, and The New Republic.
- Paul Yoon’s new novel will be coming out in August. He was recently selected as the new Writer-in-Residence at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He plans to be married (!) by the time he moves to start his residency.
Having said—written—all this, I’m quite in the mood for June. January residencies have their hermetic charm, their austere allurements, but June…June is about fireflies and bonfires and getting all lit-up (the “lit” here standing for “literature”). I look forward to seeing all of you before long.