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Welcome to the Mississippi Writers Page Newsletter for January 10-16, 2003

In this issue:


THIS WEEK in MISSISSIPPI LITERARY HISTORY

The following events all happened during this week in Mississippi history.

Year:
1700: Henry de Tonty arrives at Biloxi from upriver to help with the building of the settlements and fortifications. With his arrival, the two French colonies on the North American continent are linked for the first time. (Jan. 16)

1892: Historian Dumas Malone was born in Coldwater, Mississippi. (Jan. 10)

1900: Baptist minister Ewart Autry was born in Hickory Flat, Mississippi. (Jan. 15)

1907: Poet and novelist Hubert Creekmore was born in Water Valley, Mississippi. (Jan. 16)

1925: Journalist and editor Edward Preston Guess was born in Rome, Mississippi. (Jan. 11)

1926: Baptist minister W. Stanley Mooneyham was born in Houston, Mississippi. (Jan. 14)

1929: Poet Turner Cassity was born in Jackson, Mississippi. (Jan. 12)

1931: William Faulkner’s daughter, Alabama Faulkner, was born prematurely on this day. She died nine days later. (Jan. 11)

1936: Historian Stephen E. Ambrose was born in Decatur, Illinois. (Jan. 10)

1949: Novelist Mary Robison was born in Washington, D.C. (Jan. 14)

1941: Home economist Mary Wallace Crocker was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi. (Jan. 15)

1963: The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore by Tennessee Williams opened on Broadway. The play closed after 69 performances. (Jan. 16)

1989: Writer Anne Clark died after a sudden illness in Austin, Texas. (Jan. 14)

1993: Historian Aubrey C. Land died in Athens, Georgia. (Jan. 14)

1994: Novelist Alice Walworth Graham died in Natchez, Mississippi. (Jan. 10)


NEWS about MISSISSIPPI WRITERS

Visiting Ole Miss professor wins National Endowment of Arts award

Jan. 9, 2003

Poet Beth Ann Fennelly, left, a UM visiting assistant professor of English, talks with a fan about her latest work. (photo Robert Jordan)

By Deidra Jackson
University of Mississippi News Services

OXFORD, Miss. — In the space of only a few days, poet Beth Ann Fennelly has been kissed thrice by good fortune.

For the visiting assistant professor of English at the University of Mississippi, success came in a trio of rapid-fire kudos: a prestigious National Endowment for the Arts grant, a second poetry book offer from an elite New York publishing house and feature of her work in a renowned literary journal.

“I couldn't believe it—I just started crying right there,” said Fennelly, whose first book of poems, Open House (April 2002), won the 2001 Kenyon Review’s Prize in Poetry for a First Book, considered one of the nation’s most notable awards for new authors.

In December, she was among only 38 writers from the United States and seven foreign countries chosen to receive NEA’s notable Creative Writing Fellowships in Poetry, which attracted more than 1,600 applicants. Each fellow received $20,000.

“The judges were some of my favorite writers. Li-Young Lee, Albert Golbarth and former poet laureate Robert Pinsky are people I’ve really admired for a long time,” she said. “Just to take my place alongside them is a great honor.”

Joseph Urgo, chair of the UM Department of English, termed Fennelly “immensely talented.”

“She is emerging, among the poets of her generation, as one who is sure to outlast the moment’s literary chatter,” he said. “Her vision is expansive and her voice is strong; she is an original.”

Since 1990, 40 winners of NEA’s literature fellowship have become recipients of the National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award and Pulitzers in fiction and poetry.

But Fennelly’s story doesn't end there.

Still reeling from the surprise of her NEA award, she has struck a deal with New York independent publishing house W.W. Norton & Company to publish her second book of poetry, in spring 2004. Norton, which bills itself as the oldest and largest publishing house owned wholly by its employees, rarely accepts poetry by emerging writers, Fennelly said.

The writer said she hopes to use the NEA award to help her “put final finishing touches” on the forthcoming work Tender Hooks, a collection of 25 poems. It centers on Fennelly’s 18-month-old daughter, Claire, and explores her experience as a mother, as well as some of the changes that she, her daughter and husband have undergone since Claire’s birth.

“The book takes on the subject of motherhood from a lot of different angles,” said Fennelly. “The poems range informally from a Shakespearean sonnet to a 12-page experimental poem.”

In another fortuitous career boost, Fennelly’s lengthy poem “Telling the Gospel Truth” will appear in an upcoming issue of The Kenyon Review. Founded in 1939, the celebrated magazine publishes works by talented emerging writers alongside more established writers.

A native of Lake Forest, Ill., Fennelly taught at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., for two years before coming to UM this past fall to teach poetry and literary studies. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame (Indiana) in 1993. After graduation, she taught English in a coal mining village on the Czech/Polish border.

In 1994, she returned to the United States to earn a master’s of fine arts in poetry from the University of Arkansas. She held the prestigious Diane Middlebrook Fellowship in Poetry at The University of Wisconsin from 1998-99.

Fennelly’s poems have been published in numerous literary reviews, including TriQuarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, American Scholar, and Washington and Lee University’s Shenandoah. Her poetry has been anthologized in The Pushcart Prize 2001: Best of the Small Presses and Poets of the New Century.

From Open House (Zoo Press, April 2002) by Beth Ann Fennelly

Poem Not to Be Read at Your Wedding

You ask me for a poem about love

in place of a wedding present, trying to save me

money. For three nights I’ve lain

under glow-in-the-dark-stars I’ve stuck to the ceiling

over my bed. I’ve listened to the songs

of the galaxy. Well, Carmen, I would rather

give you your third set of steak knives

than tell you what I know. Let me find you

some other, store-bought present. Don’t

make me warn you of stars, how they see us

from that distance as miniature and breakable

from the bride who tops the wedding cake

to the Mary on Pinto dashboards

holding her ripe, red heart in her hands.

Fennelly’s work “Poem Not to Be Read at Your Wedding” was included in Best American Poetry 1996, Penguin’s Book of the Sonnet and the writing textbook 13 Ways of Looking for a Poem. It also was chosen by Poetry in Motion to be made into a poster to hang in the St. Louis transit system. The New York-based program, which displays poems in buses and subways, reaches more than 10 million Americans daily.

Fennelly’s husband, novelist Tom Franklin, authored the short story collection Poachers and was UM’s 2001-2002 John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence. This fall he assumed a similar position at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. The couple collaborated on the short story “Saint of Broken Objects,” which was published in the summer issue of The Southern Review. Franklin’s novel Hell at the Breech will be published by William Morrow in May.

Award-winning poet David Baker, poetry editor of The Kenyon Review, praised Fennelly’s first book. “Beth Ann Fennelly’s Open House stands out from the poetry of most younger American poets with their sober self-confessions or, conversely, their sarcastic throwaway wit.

“Here is sincere passion in great, mature portions, with a tenderness toward her characters both faraway and near, a historical aptitude and relevance, a strength of spirit and a wisdom at home in the substantial body of the work. I greet this book, this poet, with joy.”


Do you have a news item about a Mississippi writer? Please send your information to mwp@olemiss.edu.


NEW FEATURES in the MISSISSIPPI WRITERS PAGE

The following article was recently added to the Writer Listings:


NEW BOOKS by Mississippi Writers

The Return of GabrielThe Return of Gabriel

By John Armistead

Milkweed Editions (Paperback, $6.95, ISBN: 1571316388)

Publication date: October 2002

Description:

In the summer of 1964, freedom workers come to a small Mississippi town to register blacks to vote. The quiet pace of the summer changes dramatically for Cooper and his friends Jubal, who is black, and Squirrel, who is Jewish. The only white member of Oak Grove Baptist Church, Cooper must decide how to react when his father makes him attend Ku Klux Klan meetings. His uncle Chicago helps guide him through the turbulent times. As the summer progresses, the pastor at the church learns of the Klan’s plans in advance. He says the news comes from the Angel Gabriel. When Cooper discovers Gabriel’s identity, he must decide what role he will play, and on which side.

No Second Eden: PoemsNo Second Eden: Poems

By Turner Cassity

Swallow Press (Hardcover, $24.95, ISBN: 0804010501)

Publication date: October 2002

Description from Booklist:

Poetry isn’t much thought of as a participatory art form, but it is, as critical discussion of voice and tone, which the reader must conjure up, implicates. Form may also ask for participation. Tight metrical and rhyme schemes can require poets to pare language to the bone, and readers to determine the precise meanings of words and syntactical tactics. In poem after poem, Cassity disciplines himself to form, and those who would read him with real comprehension may find immediate rereading necessary—and ever so rewarding. For Cassity regards everything with a cool, dissecting eye, and he exercises verbal and rational cleverness. He brooks no pretension and no romanticizing, even in himself. He well knows what would have happened to Rimbaud had he settled down (see “Boxcar Arthur, the Sequel”). He cuts the crap out of a shopworn parable (see “In the Receiving Line”), out of revolutionary cant (see “Karl and Julius and Gregory; or, Are You a Fructidor?”), and, breathtakingly, out of pseudopatriotic piety (see “WTC”). He is a national treasure. —Ray Olson.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

Red Dragon: The Shooting Scripts

By Ted Tally, Thomas Harris

Newmarket Press (Paperback, $18.95, ISBN: 1557045585)

Publication date: October 2002

Description from Booklist:

Based on Thomas Harris’ 1981 best-selling novel, a prequel to The Silence of the Lambs (1988) and Hannibal (1999), in which serial killer Hannibal Lector is first introduced.

Oscar®-nominee Edward Norton stars as ex-FBI agent Will Graham, an expert investigator who quit the Bureau after almost losing his life in the process of capturing the elusive Dr. Lector, played again by Academy Award®-winner Anthony Hopkins. Years later, after a series of particularly grisly murders, Graham reluctantly agrees to come out of retirement and assist in the case. But he soon realizes that the best way to catch this killer, known as the Tooth Fairy, is to find a way to get inside the killer’s mind. And the closest thing to that would be to probe the mind of another killer who is equally brilliant and equally twisted. For Graham, that means confronting his past and facing his former nemesis, the now-incarcerated Lector. Oscar®-nominee Ralph Fiennes plays Francis Dolarhyde.

The Newmarket Shooting Script includes the complete screenplay by Ted Tally, an introduction by Tally, 20 b/w film stills, and the film’s complete credits.

La Salle: A Perilous Odyssey from Canada to the Gulf of MexicoLa Salle: A Perilous Odyssey from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico

By Donald Johnson

Cooper Square Press (Hardcover, $26.95, ISBN: 0815412401)

Publication date: October 2002

Description from the publisher:

Rene-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle (1643-1687) was the first man to navigate—with extreme difficulty—the Mississippi River from the Great Lakes region to the Gulf of Mexico, thereby establishing France’s claim on a swath of the North American continent equal to half the size of Europe, which La Salle named Louisiana. Johnson’s new biography of the dauntless explorer provides a detailed panorama of the European nations’ efforts to control North America, and the results these endeavors had on the future of the continent. Johnson also makes use of new information regarding La Salle’s final expedition, in which he was killed by his own men after a failed attempt to reach the mouth of the Mississippi from the Caribbean. How this veteran explorer ended up hundreds of miles off course, for centuries a mystery among historians, is explained here in convincing detail.

Donald Johnson, author of Charting the Sea of Darkness: The Four Voyages of Henry Hudson and Phantom Islands of the Atlantic, lives in Perry, Maine, near Bangor.


AUTHOR EVENTS: Book Signings, Readings, and Appearances

Jan. 16: Bondurant Auditorium, University of Mississippi campus, Oxford, Mississippi, 7 p.m.

Tom Chandler, poet laureate of Rhode Island and author of Wingbones and Sad Jazz, reads from his poetry. Sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writers Series and the English Department. For more information, contact the department at (662) 915-7439, or online at www.olemiss.edu/depts/english.

Feb. 6: Bondurant Auditorium, University of Mississippi campus, Oxford, Mississippi, 7 p.m.

U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2002) Billy Collins reads from his poetry and offers commentary on his work and other matters. Sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writers Series and the English Department. For more information, contact the department at (662) 915-7439, or online at www.olemiss.edu/depts/english.

Feb. 6-8: Magnolia Independent Film Festival, Cinema 12, Starkville, Mississippi

The 6th annual Mag Film Fest, celebrating the spirit, the honesty, and the vision of independent films. For more information, visit the festival web site, www.magfilmfest.com.

Feb. 17: Old Chemistry Auditorium, University of Mississippi campus, Oxford, Mississippi, 7 p.m.

Clifton L. Taulbert, author of the acclaimed classic Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored, will speak. This event is in conjunction with Open Doors, the University of Mississippi’s yearlong observance of the 40th anniversary of the integration of higher education. Sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writers Series and the English Department. For more information, contact the department at (662) 915-7439, or online at www.olemiss.edu/depts/english.

If you know of upcoming literary events by or about Mississippi writers, please let us know by writing us at mwp@olemiss.edu. 


ON THE HORIZON

The following events are planned for the coming weeks and months. You may wish to begin planning now to attend or participate.

March 25, 2003

Poetry Reading by Andrew Hudgins, Bondurant Hall Auditorium, The University of Mississippi campus, in Oxford.

March 26-30, 2003

Seventeenth Annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana. For information, visit their web site at www.tennesseewilliams.net.

April 10-13, 2003

Oxford Conference for the Book, Oxford, Mississippi.

July 20-25, 2003

30th Annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi


If you know of additional news items for this newsletter or if you have suggestions, please write us at mwp@olemiss.edu.

For more information about events in the Oxford and University of Mississippi community, see the Ole Miss Community Calendar:
www.olemiss.edu/calendar/


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