My dear fellow Benningtonians,
All these years of Bennington and AWP, but I’ve never actually written my spring letter from the trenches, as an embedded journalist—though I’ll confess the bed is changed every day by the good people at the Minneapolis Hilton. Still, I feel I’ve seen my share of the action—writerly though it is—from my twin vantage posts at the AGNI and Bennington tables. Which are, conveniently enough, about 15 feet apart--!
Anyway, yesterday was the first day of the conference and it was a veritable love-fest of B-people: faculty and alums here to do panels, alum also here because this is where the literary and social action is, and current students…ditto. I squinted at close to a hundred name-tags, I’m sure, and hope to squint some more when we have our cocktail party on Saturday. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make—a point completely confirmed again today—is that there is no population more delightful or dear to my heart. But enough schmaltz—this is a newsletter.
So…I want to start by saying that the evaluation of the program by our outside evaluators has been submitted, and that we are grateful for their significantly positive assessment of who we are and what we do, but also for their thoughtful suggestions and queries. These have all initiated a good conversation with the college, and we will update you as things develop. Right now I want to thank Bonnie Culver and Tony Eprile for their thorough and articulate report.
I’m happy, too, to report that the admissions process has closed and that the incoming class for June is set—as delightful, various and accomplished a group as any program could desire. It was—this is one of the quiet perks of my job—a pure pleasure to punch the numbers on the phone grid and be able to say, as soon as I can work it in, “let me say, this is a good-news call…” Looking very much forward to the first morning when I get a chance to put faces to the voices and the work samples.
Looking to the residency…On leave this upcoming term will be Bret Anthony Johnston, Paul Yoon, and Brian Morton. Returning from leaves: Askold Melnyczuk, Susan Cheever, Amy Hempel and Ed Ochester. And joining us again: Angie Cruz and Deirdre McNamer.
Speaking of AWP (I was…). Our own writer-in-residence and former faculty member Bob Shacochis was given the George Garrett Award from AWP—a recognition of his great literary contribution and his ongoing, dare I say almost militant, advocacy of the values that make writers such great pests to those who try to ‘run’ our society according to their various precepts. Deserved, Bob!
Bob will be at the June residency, along with our Associate Lecturers: Kevin Young in Poetry, Rivka Galchen in Fiction, and Sarah Manguso in Nonfiction. Sarah will also be delivering this year’s Commencement address.
As for faculty news, there is a goodly amount:
- Ben Anastas writes: “I have new essays coming out soon in The New Republic and on Literary Hub, the exciting new venture by Grove Atlantic and Electric Literature, which will mix original content commissioned for the site with essays, stories, poetry, and interviews from 100+ partners across the literary firmament. Otherwise I've been writing fiction.”
- April Bernard has been on panels and giving readings at two conferences in honor of the John Berryman centenary—one in Minneapolis in October, the other in NYC in February. She has written a new introduction to Berryman's Sonnets, out from FSG. She has also written the occasional blog post for The New York Review of Books. Her fifth collection of poems, Brawl & Jag, will be published next year by W.W. Norton.
- Sven Birkerts has published essays in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Sewanee Review, and Threepenny Review’s Table Talk anthology. His new book, Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age will be published this fall by Graywolf. He will lecture in May at the Latvian National Library in Riga, Latvia (the building coincidentally designed by Gunnar Birkerts).
- Susan Cheever’s book Drinking in America: Our Secret History, which is a look at American history from 1620 to the present seen through the lens of alcoholism, is coming out in October. The chapter on the Kennedy assassination—some of the secret service agents in the motorcade had been out drinking until 3 or 4 in the morning—already appeared in Vanity Fair-online. Adds Susan: “it caused no end of trouble…whoops-- I mean caused quit a stir!”
- Angie Cruz has been selected to be Writer-in-Residence for July at the Siena Art Institite—that’s Siena, Italy, where every year they run the world-famous ‘palio’—a horse race in the town center.
- David Gates’ new book, A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me, eleven stories and a novella is coming out in May. The Dog House Band is appearing at the Word of South Festival in Tallahassee on April 12.
- Amy Hempel was given the Corrington Award for Literary Excellence from Centenary College in Louisiana last month. Her new novel, The Hand That Feeds You, written in collaboration with Jill Ciment, will be published on July 7. It has been sold to 18 countries so far...
- Major Jackson reports recent journal publications in Paris Review and Little Star 6, as well as work in several anthologies: A Sense of Regard: Essays on Poetry & Race edited by Laura McCullough, University of Georgia, 2015 and Please Excuse This Poem edited by Brett Fletcher Lauer and Lynn Melnick, Viking Penguin, 2015. Major also read the poetry of Derek Walcott for a New Yorker poetry podcast. He has recent and upcoming readings ion Montpelier, Miami, New York, Baltimore and Denver, to name a few. Clone thyself, Major!
- Dinah Lenney writes that she has been “traveling & traveling, editing & editing, and paneling & paneling” (nothing by halves). Her Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction (77 writers in all), edited with the late Judith Kitchen, coming from W. W. Norton next fall. She has work recently published or forthcoming at essaydaily.org, in Fourth Genre, and at www.lareviewofbooks.org. The Object Parade is out in paperback.
- Alice Mattison will be part of a tribute to Jane Kenyon (along with Tree Swenson, Joyce Peseroff, and others) at AWP. Her book about writing, The Kite and the String: On Writing, Especially Fiction (forthcoming from Viking), is on her editor's desk. Her dog, “squeaky toy in mouth, now passes other dogs without getting upset.”
- Jill McCorkle has a story forthcoming in The Oxford American and essays in three anthologies that just came out: Every Father's Daughter, edited by Margaret McMullen, Carolina Writers at Home from Hub City Press, and Amazing Place, edited by Marianne Gingher, UNC Press.
- Askold Melnyczuk had a piece of his memoir in progress, Turbulence, Love appear in the Boston Globe on April 6; he published a review of Alejandro Jodorowsky in the Los Angeles Review of Books; another review appeared in early March in the Boston Globe appeared in early March. Askold also has a story forthcoming in Gettysburg Review.
- Ed Ochester writes: “In February we had a launch party for my new book Sugar Run Road at East End Books in Pittsburgh (jammed, SRO). In March, did readings at Chatham Univ. and Cornelia Street Cafe (NYC). Coming up in April: readings at Carlow Univ. and Robert Morris Univ. Recent (late fall to present) poems in Poetry Daily, Gettysburg Review, Green Mountain Review, Great River Review, Miramar & others. In addition to our usual 12 books/year in the Pitt Poetry Series, we've also just published David Lehman's The State of the Art: A Chronicle of American Poetry 1988-2014 which is a wonderful must-read book for any poetry fan.”
- Rachel Pastan recently published a story and a review in The Los Angeles Review of Books, and she has a story, “Old Joke,” (condensed from a failed novel) in an upcoming issue of The Kenyon Review. She participated in the inaugural reading of the Mid-Atlantic Bennington Readers Series in Washington, D.C. in April along with alums Andrea Jarrell and Barrett Warner. Her novel Alena is a finalist for the New England Society Book Award in fiction and is freshly out in paperback.
- Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s story, "The Golden Rule," which appeared in Fifth Wednesday, has been selected for the 2015 O. Henry Prize Stories. She has short fiction appearing in the forthcoming issue of Agni, and poems in the current issues of Poet Lore, Bosque, The Denver Quarterly, Salamander and the online literary magazines Narrative.com and Literal Latte. She has an essay in the new anthology, Table Talk From the Threepenny Review, and an essay in the forthcoming anthology Brief Encounters, ed. Dinah Lenney and Judith Kitchen. She is working on an anthology of short stories based on the theme of translation, which will be published by Seven Stories in 2016.
- Peter Trachtenberg’s essay “Inside the Tiger Factory” will be coming out in the Summer issue of VQR. On June 7, he is scheduled to read at the Bennington alumni series in Washington. And just before Bennington, he'll be a guest at the Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference in Homer, Alaska, June 12-16. “It's going to be interesting to see how jetlagged I am on the 18th,” writes Peter. In October, he'll be reading and teaching at George Mason University's Fall for the Book Festival.
- Mark Wunderlich’s The Earth Avails won the 2015 Rilke Prize.
Those of you who are at AWP, I hope you will come to our cocktail party…The brutality of winter has passed and it is the season for bright & saucy initiatives.