By Amy Wells
For more than 20 years, the Ohio University Spring Literary Festival has featured some of the world's most distinguished writers of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. This year's festival, which takes place May 7 though 9, features five award-winning authors who will present readings of their work, visit classes and give lectures while on campus.
"There is no experience like hearing a writer present his or her own work," said Kevin Haworth, who coordinates the festival. "The passion and dedication that emerges is inspiring. This is one of the great benefits of living in a university community, and I encourage everyone to experience it."
The year's guests are National Book Award finalist Edwidge Danticat, short-story writer Lee K. Abbott, memoirist Kathryn Harrison, Jackson Prize-winning poet Tony Hoagland and Village Voice Writer on the Verge Thomas Glave.
One of the most exciting aspects of the festival, Haworth said, is its spontaneity. That results in part from the fact that organizers do not ask the writers to identify the topics of their lectures or readings.
"Part of the tradition of the festival is to show up and discover what the writers have to say," Haworth said. "We like people to come and immerse themselves in literature for three days and soak it all in."
Danticat will kick off the festival with a lecture at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Baker University Center Ballroom. Danticat, who was born in Haiti and moved to the United States when she was 12 years old, is the author of the Oprah Book Club selection "Breath, Eyes, Memory." She has won an American Book award for "The Farming of Bones" and is a two-time National Book Award finalist for "Krik? Krak!" and "Brother, I'm Dying."
Glave is the author of the collection "Whose Song? and Other Stories," which was nominated for the American Library Association Best Gay/Lesbian Book of the Year. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including an O. Henry Prize for fiction and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fine Arts Works Center in Provincetown, Mass. He was among eight writers chosen by Village Voice literary supplement editors as one of eight up-and-coming scribes.
Abbott is the author of six collections of short fiction, including "Wet Places at Noon," the award-winning "The Heart Never Fits Its Wanting" and the highly praised "Love Is the Crooked Thing." He has twice won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and was awarded a Major Artist Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council in 1991. Abbott has taught at Ohio State University since 1989.
Harrison is the author of six novels and five nonfiction works, most notably "The Kiss." Her novels include "Envy," "The Seal Wife," "The Binding Chair," "Poison," "Exposure" and "Thicker Than Water." She is a frequent reviewer for The New York Times' Book Review and her essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, Vogue, O Magazine, Salon and other publications.
Hoagland's poetry collections include "What Narcissism Means to Me," a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; "Donkey Gospel," which received the James Laughlin Award; and "Sweet Ruin," chosen for the 1992 Brittingham Prize in Poetry and winner of the Zacharis Award from Emerson College. Hoagland's other honors include two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a fellowship to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and the recently awarded $50,000 Jackson Prize.
Haworth said the Spring Literary Festival is intended for the entire Athens and university communities, including faculty, staff and students of every discipline as well as area residents.
The readings and lectures are free and open to the public. Books by the authors will be available for purchase following each program.
The festival is sponsored by the Program in Creative Writing in the Department of English and funded by the College of Arts and Sciences with support from Arts for Ohio.
Visit the festival Web site for a complete schedule.