Renowned writers present free readings, lectures at Warren Wilson College

December 30, 2016

MFA Program for Writers holds winter residency Jan. 3-13

View readings schedule     |     View lecture schedule     |     Download a copy of the updated schedule (1/4/17)

2015 Rea Award for the Short Story winner Andrea Barrett is one of the of the MFA Program for Writers faculty members presenting a free lecture during the winter residency at Warren Wilson College. Photo by Barry Goldstein.
2015 Rea Award for the Short Story winner Andrea Barrett is one of the MFA Program for Writers faculty members presenting a free lecture during the winter residency at Warren Wilson College. Photo by Barry Goldstein.

Warren Wilson College is bringing in 2017 in a familiar way. The renowned MFA Program for Writers is giving the public a chance to partake in a number of free readings and lectures by its authors in early January. In addition to seven soon-to-be graduates, the program will feature members of the faculty in events throughout the winter residency.

Now in its 36th year at Warren Wilson College, the MFA Program for Writers is the nation’s first low-residency creative writing program. Students and faculty participate in two residencies on the campus each year in January and July.

Slated for Jan. 3-13, the winter residency sessions give community members a glimpse of what makes the MFA program successful. In a recent story for Owl & Spade magazine, founder Ellen Bryant Voigt said the key to the program’s success is its focus “on the quality of the work and preparing students to have a life of writing.”

The free morning lectures by faculty in the MFA Program for Writers are Jan. 4-7, and Jan. 11-12 in Canon Lounge.

Among the instructors is 1996 National Book Award-winning author Andrea Barrett, who returns to the faculty in 2017 after winning the 2015 Rea Award for the Short Story. Calling her a writer who “has made a significant contribution to the discipline of the short story as an art form,” the Dungannon Foundation presented the award to Barrett along with its $30,000 prize, according to a release. Barrett’s lecture, “The Transformation: Virginia Woolf and ‘The Years,’” is set for Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, at 11 a.m.

Free evening readings by students and faculty are held Jan. 3-12, in Canon Lounge.

The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College Public Schedule – January 2017

The public is welcome to attend the morning lectures and evening readings in fiction and poetry offered during the Master of Fine Arts Program winter residency. Events last approximately one hour. Admission is free. The schedule is subject to change.

For more information, call the MFA Office: (828) 771-3715.

Readings begin at 8:15 p.m. in Canon Lounge at Warren Wilson College unless indicated otherwise.
Readings by faculty Sunday, Jan. 8
No readings
Tuesday, Jan. 3—8 p.m., Canon Lounge
Andrea Barrett, Paul Otremba, Danielle Evans, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Marisa Silver
Monday, Jan. 9
Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Dean Bakopoulos, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Charles Baxter
Wednesday, Jan. 4
David Shields, Chase Twichell, Megan Staffel, Alan Williamson
Tuesday, Jan. 10
Liam Callanan, Debra Allbery, David Haynes, Alan Shapiro
Thursday, Jan. 5
Sandra Lim, Antonya Nelson, Daniel Tobin, Peter Orner
Readings by graduating students
Friday, Jan. 6
Martha Rhodes, Kevin McIlvoy, Connie Voisine, Laura van den Berg
Wednesday, Jan. 11
Abigail Cahill O’Brien, Matthew Alberswerth, Sarah Halper, Rose Skelton
Saturday, Jan. 7
Jeremy Gavron, Marianne Boruch, C.J. Hribal, Eleanor Wilner
Thursday, Jan. 12—4:30 p.m., Ransom Fellowship Hall, followed by Graduation Ceremony
Emilie Beck, Terri Leker, Paul Mihas

The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College Faculty Lectures – January 2017

All lectures will be in Canon Lounge in Gladfelter unless indicated otherwise. For more information, call the MFA Office at Warren Wilson College: (828) 771-3715. The schedule is subject to change.

Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 11 a.m.
Dean Bakopoulos
“They Threw Me Off the Hay Truck: On Bafflement and Difficulty”

In this lecture, we’ll examine the state of bafflement that is often the genesis of lasting literary work, and the slippery concept of difficulty, particularly when writing about the struggle for justice in times of violence and upheaval (political or personal). We’ll begin with a section of Ralph Ellison’s essay

“Harlem is Nowhere,” and go from there, with a focus on the genres of magical realism and noir mystery. The lecture will likely refer to the fiction of Haruki Murakami, Helen Oyemi, James Cain, Valeria Luiselli and Alain Mabanckou, and poems by Kevin Young, Jericho Brown, Tarfia Faizullah, Maram Al-Massri and Ada Limón. No advance reading is necessary; handouts will be provided.

Thursday, Jan. 5, at 9:30 a.m.
Alan Williamson
“On Poetic Density”

If it is true that, as Julia Kristeva says, “our gift of situating ourselves in time for another could exist nowhere except beyond an abyss,” then it’s worth looking at poems that bypass the imitation of daily speech, that make their narrative occasions slightly mysterious. Instead, such poems concentrate, even overload, many of the traditional resources of poetry—sound, implicit as well as explicit metaphor, the secondary or connotative meanings of words—to convey something more like a state of consciousness. We will look at Hopkins’ “The Windhover,” Hart Crane’s “Lachrymae Christi,” Sylvia Plath’s “The Night Dances,” and, as a contemporary example or counterexample, Brenda Hillman’s “To Spirits of Fire After Harvest.”

Thursday, Jan. 5, at 10:45 a.m.
Peter Orner
“In Praise of ‘Inaction’”

An (imperfect) exploration of some instances of when and why writers opt for a quiet detonation as opposed to an explosion in a pivotal moment. Some people might call this old-hat anticlimax, but I’m not sure it is anti-anything. The attempt to try something unexpectedly inactive is—sometimes—a far more radical and mysterious narrative choice. Using examples from Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse” and Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” as a point of departure, I’ll be discussing examples of how certain less-familiar writers such as Gina Berriault, Felisberto Hernandez, Penelope Fitzgerald, Yoko Towada, and John McGahern employ inaction in critical moments. For the very ambitious, I’d point you to Part Two of “To the Lighthouse,” the first 25 pages of “As I Lay Dying,” as well as “The Light at Birth” by Gina Berriault, “The Flooded House” by Felisberto Hernandez, “Where Europe Begins” by Yoko Towada, Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald, and “The Wine Breath” by John McGahern. Handouts will be provided.

Friday, Jan. 6, at 9:30 a.m.
C.J. Hribal
“The Intimate Distance of Bohumil Hrabal”

Novels and stories narrated in the first person are essentially monologues, but what happens when this is taken to an extreme? Bohumil Hrabal likes to call his writing style “palavering,” or as the critic James Wood calls it, “anecdote without end.” His narratives move forward through narrators who, once they’re wound up, just keep talking and talking and talking, spilling all their (and other people’s) secrets, like the singer in Sonny Boy Williams’ “Don’t Start Me to Talkin’” (“Don’t start me to talkin’, I’ll tell everything I know”). This lecture will serve as an introduction to Hrabal’s work, with attention paid to what we can learn from this highly idiosyncratic style. Texts discussed will include: “Closely Watched Trains,” “I Served the King of England,” and “Too Loud a Solitude.” Other texts referred to will include “The Little Town Where Time Stood Still,” “Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age,” and his story collection, “The Death of Mr. Baltisberger” (among others). Handouts will be provided, but reading one of the above is recommended.

Friday, Jan. 6, at 10:45 a.m.
Eleanor Wilner
“Disguise and Discovery: The Masks of Art”

The talk will explore opposing uses of the mask in the world of doing versus the world of making; in the latter, the role of the mask of art in the imaginative opening of identity to plurality, and of self to other. Handouts will be provided.

Saturday, Jan. 7, at 11 a.m.
Andrea Barrett
“The Transformation: Virginia Woolf and ‘The Years’”

In 1931, Virginia Woolf made her first notes for what she called “an Essay-Novel, called ‘The Pargiters’—and it’s to take in everything, sex, education, life, etc.” By 1934 she had a 900-page draft, which she revised heavily several times. By 1936 she was in such despair about the novel that she nearly collapsed; she revised again in what Leonard Woolf called “the most drastic and ruthless way,” set that draft in page proofs—and revised still more. “The Years” as we know it—radically different from her earlier conceptions–was published in 1937. I’ll talk about Woolf’s path through that massive structural revision and what we might gain by a similar effort. No prior reading necessary; handouts provided.

Wednesday, Jan. 11, at 9:30 a.m.
Chase Twichell
“A Problem Concerning Metaphor”

Bodhidharma, the fifth century Indian Buddhist monk who brought Zen (Chan) to China, wrote: “If you use a trap to catch a fish, once you’ve succeeded you can forget the trap. If you use language to find meaning, once you find it you can forget the language.” As a student of Zen Buddhism, I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to see the world just as it is, unobscured by the layers of association, assumption, and meaning I as a human being have ascribed to it. As a poet, I’ve spent my entire life doing pretty much the opposite: seeking meaning in and correspondences between things. Language, of course, is my medium, and metaphor the crucial linguistic place where most of the enlightening collisions happen. Is there an irreconcilable problem here? By Zen lights, is metaphor inherently an enemy of clear vision? In this lecture we’ll look at Chinese, Japanese and American poems, ancient to contemporary, to see how Zen poets manage (or fail) to “forget the trap.”

Wednesday, Jan. 11, at 10:45 a.m.
Charles Baxter
“My Mother’s Hatpins”

Most fiction takes place in the present, but some fiction takes on the challenge of predicting the future (H. G. Wells’ “Things to Come,” and the fiction of Philip K. Dick, among many other SciFi texts), and some other kinds of fiction tries to memorialize and preserve what Samuel Beckett calls “things about to disappear.” I’m most interested in the latter mode, and I plan to talk about Deborah Eisenberg’s

“Twilight of the Superheroes” and Edward P. Jones’s story “Gospel.”

Thursday, Jan. 12, at 9:30 a.m. – Ransom Fellowship Hall
Antonya Nelson
“True Grist: Material, and its Milling”

“Stories don’t happen to people who can’t tell them,” claims Alan Gurganus’ oldest living Confederate widow. Is it so? This lecture will be a meditation on the process of finding—in life, literature and lore, from fact, fiction, fairy tale—and using the stuff of stories.

Thursday, Jan. 12, at 10:45 a.m. – Ransom Fellowship Hall
Marianne Boruch
“Little Words in the Museum of the Humanly Possible: Oh and Oh No and Ah”

The pool of thought I’ll offer as a lecture is a tryptic on three governing little exclamations (see above), two steps forward and one back, all having to do with how poems (and stories too, perhaps the same principle) rise out of a little or a lot.

  1. “Oh” comes from far away, and past, a remembrance, a haunting, but no, not nostalgia. It’s private out of public; it’s a lyric stop out of a narrative flood.
  2. Then there’s the “Oh No” of bummer lit, what we as poets love best to read and to write (maybe you fiction writers as well), and why is that? And how? And some of us have ended up trapped there: the newly rediscovered British writer Rosemary Tonks, the part-Brit Sylvia Plath (we will consider her drafts of “Poppies in July”), Berryman, Philip Larkin, Lucia Perillo, the dark wit of all three. (Not Dante, who went there so willfully, to name names, dogged brilliant journalist and outsider/insider that he was, to remake the world.)
  3. And finally, in the museum of the humanly possible, there’s the blessed “Ah” though not exactly to rescue. Think George Oppen’s remark in his Notebooks: “I do not care for ‘systems. What concerns me is the philosophy of the astonished.” We’re delivered at times by what could be an unfashionable semi-optimism (though tangled darkly enough to please and convince us) but how is this managed by thoughtful non-idiots? And how strange is that option, to get beyond the standard moral tale somehow?  There’s Adelia Prado, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, W. H. Auden. Maybe we can talk about surprise and still be surprised.

It could be that all of the above will be considered. Handouts provided. Dream and attention and mutiny encouraged.