May 9, 2012
From staff reports
May 9 through May 11, the Program in Creative Writing at Ohio University will present the 27th Spring Literary Festival, featuring the prestigious writers Denise Duhamel, Terrance Hayes, Amy Hempel, Richard Rodriguez and Susan Orlean.
Since 1986, The Spring Literary Festival has showcased some of the world's finest writers of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, including commercial success stories, U.S. Poet Laureates, and well-known Ohio scribes. This year is no different.
One exciting feature of the program is the wonderful mix of different kinds of writers. Poet Duhamel, who is making her first trip to Athens, is a comic, yet serious, poet who is as entertaining as she is prolific. The author of more than a dozen books, Duhamel has been a recipient of an NEA Fellowship, and is a professor at Florida International University in Miami.
William Waltz wrote about her, "As I read her work [. . .] I feel like I'm taking a sneak peek at the future: Duhamel hints at a poetry that transcends irony and alienation. There's plenty of both here, but she's busy working them over [. . .] pushing so hard that the next step may be beyond what is known."
Hayes has playful elements in his poetry as well, but it's music and art that take center stage. Lighthead, winner of the 2010 National Book Award in Poetry and his most innovative collection, investigates how we construct experience, presenting "the light-headedness of a mind trying to pull against gravity and time." In Muscular Music, Hayes takes reader through a living library of cultural icons, from Shaft and Fat Albert to John Coltrane and Miles Davis. In Wind in a Box, he explores how identity is shaped by race, heritage, and spirituality with the unifying motif being the struggle for freedom within containment. In Hip Logic, Hayes confronts racism, sexism, religion, family structure and stereotypes with overwhelming imagery.
Fiction-writer Hempel is well-known for her story collections and her skill with the very brief story. She read at the 16th Spring Literary Festival and will help OHIO celebrate the 27th. Her Collected Stories won the Ambassador Award for Best Fiction of the Year, and was named one of the New York Times Top Ten Books of the Year. It was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Hempel has won a Guggenheim Fellowship, a United States Artists Foundation fellowship, the REA Award for Fiction, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. Her stories have appeared in Harper's, GQ, Vanity Fair, The Quarterly, The Yale Review, Tin House, Playboy and many other publications; they have been anthologized in the Best American Short Stories, the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, and others.
New Yorker-writer Orlean is also a narrative superstar, but she most often works in nonfiction. Her work has been celebrated literary circles and in Hollywood (her book The Orchid Thief became the celebrated film Adaptation). Her latest work, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and The Legend tells the story of Rin Tin Tin's journey from orphaned puppy to movie star and international icon. Orlean has written several books, including, My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who's Been Everywhere and The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters with Ordinary People. Prior to joining The New Yorker, Orlean was a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and at Vogue, where she wrote about numerous figures in both the music and fashion industries. She has also contributed to Esquire, Smithsonian, New York Times Magazine and many other publications.
Cultural critic and essayist Rodriguez has been a well-known figure for over three decades and has written poignantly about race, education, sexuality, and religion. A master of the "personal essay," Rodriguez writes about the intersection of his personal life with some of the great vexing issues of America. Rodriguez, the son of Mexican immigrant parents, grew up in Sacramento, Calif. He was an undergraduate at Stanford University. He went on to spend two years in a religious studies program at Columbia. He then studied English Renaissance literature at the Warburg Institute in London and was a doctoral candidate at the University of California in Berkeley. In 1982, he published an intellectual autobiography, Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez. Widely celebrated and criticized, this book is today read in many American high schools and colleges. A memoir of a "scholarship boy," "Hunger" remains controversial for its skepticism regarding bilingual education and affirmative action.
OHIO is thrilled to welcome these writers and to welcome members of the University community and residents from the surrounding area to the Spring Literary Festival.
The festival is held on the Ohio University campus in Athens—all events are in the Baker Center, at 20 East Union St. "Lit Fest," as it's commonly known, is sponsored by the Department of English and generously funded by the College of Arts and Sciences and Arts for Ohio, and all readings and lectures are free and open to the public.