City of Words

GALWAY KINNELL once said, "It is the dream of every poem to be a myth.” By that he meant, I believe, that every true poem intends to speak in universal terms, to reach toward the hopes and fears of humankind. Similarly, it is the object of any literary festival to establish intensely and dramatically a relationship between important writers and the community, to renew a world that has been lost to us through habit or inattention with a language that batters it into visibility.” A great writer creates a city of words, a place that all listeners or readers can enter to find themselves.

This year’s literary festival begins and ends with Pulitzer Prize winners, and in between offers a range of voices and visions of the world. The Benefit Reading on September 27 will be given by Galway Kinnell, Pulitzer Prize winner and state poet of Vermont, a writer whose moral alertness and respect for the world around him gives his work the quality of a human chorus speaking for us all. The poet Sharon Olds has said of him, “Galway’s intense family feeling doesn’t stop at the cabin door, on the edge of the town, or the borders of Vermont, or the American shores. The globe alone is, maybe, the defining border of Galway’s works.” Likewise, the novelist Lee Smith goes beyond Southern accents in such books as Oral History and Family Linen and depicts characters who are reflections of us all. Lucille Clifton, who has been nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize and has won an Emmy for her contribution to Marlo Thomas’ Free To Be You And Me, has written poetry and stories for children and adults. Her writing quickens and shapes an awareness of black heritage. As one of her characters says, "...i got a long memory/ and i came from a line/ of black and going on women.” Anne Bernays makes a universe of the university, particularly in her sharply ironic Professor Romeo, the story of a Harvard professor who is a best-selling author, a leading researcher in his field, and an indefatigable seducer of his female colleagues and students. Kelly Cherry, Peggy Shumaker, Toi Derricotte, AIf Mapp, Jr., Scott Donaldson, Hal Crowther, and Ethelbert Miller will add to the extraordinary range of voices.

Appropriately, the festival will conclude with a lecture by Pulitzer Prize winning biographer Justin Kaplan, who will speak quite literally about words. He will talk about his work on the 16th edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, a standard reference that, in his words, “has tended to reflect the cosmos through the gates of Harvard Yard.” Kaplan wants to open the gates to Woody Allen, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, and others. Kaplan, famous for his biographies of Walt Whitman and Mark Twain, once described Whitman’s life as a “demonstration of the regenerative power of personality, change and language.” Language is the heart of the matter, and language that matters is at the heart of ODU's 13th Annual Literary Festival, what we hope will truly become a city of words this fall.

~ Michael Pearson, Director of the Festival




Brochure: 13th Annual Literary Festival, 1990: City of Words, Publications Department, Old Dominion University

Anne Bernays, 13th Annual ODU Literary Festival, Anne Bernays

Kelly Cherry, 13th Annual ODU Literary Festival, Kelly Cherry

Lucille Clifton, 13th Annual ODU Literary Festival, Lucille Clifton

Hal Crowther, 13th Annual ODU Literary Festival, Hal Crowther

Toi Derricotte, 13th Annual ODU Literary Festival, Toi Derricotte

Scott Donaldson, 13th Annual ODU Literary Festival, Scott Donaldson

Justin Kaplan, 13th Annual ODU Literary Festival, Justin Kaplan

Galway Kinnell, 13th Annual ODU Literary Festival, Galway Kinnell

Alf Mapp, Jr., 13th Annual ODU Literary Festival, Alf Mapp Jr.

E. Ethelbert Miller, 13th Annual ODU Literary Festival, E. Ethelbert Miller

Peggy Shumaker, 13th Annual ODU Literary Festival, Peggy Shumaker

Lee Smith, 13th Annual ODU Literary Festival, Lee Smith