October 19, 2007

Festival brings authors, poets and readers together

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The 2007 Devil's Kitchen Literary Festival, scheduled for Oct. 25- 27 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, offers a rare chance for readers to meet the wizard behind the curtain.

Acclaimed writers and poets share readings from their works, letting audiences hear the words that originated inside the authors' heads. Two panel discussions, one featuring five poets and another with three fiction writers, present the opportunity for audience interaction with the authors. And if that's not enough, Thursday evening and Friday afternoon receptions offer a casual setting for literary discussion.

Staff at "Grassroots: Undergraduate Literary Magazine" organize and sponsor the event. Krishna Pattisapu, editor-in-chief, said the festival strives to engage in its audience and in its readers a broad community of writers and literature lovers. "The festival is completely free," she said. "Local bookstores generally carry the authors who are coming for the festival. This is a way to bring literature to the public."

Invited authors include: Mary Jo Firth Gillett, Wendy Rawlings, Betty Adcock, Patricia Spears Jones, James Kimbrell, Simone Muench, Kerry Neville Bakken, Dale Ray Philips, Kyle Minor, Laura Benedict, and SIUC faculty members Pinckney Benedict, Rodney Jones, Jacinda Townsend and Jon Tribble.

"Grassroots" staff note that the literary festival is possible due to the SIUC Fine Arts Activity Fee, and assistance from the SIUC Creative Writing Program's Visiting Writers Series and "Crab Orchard Review." The SIUC Department of English sponsors the Thursday reception.

Pattisapu stressed that visitors to the literary festival may attend as many or as few sessions as they like. A schedule of events and a brief look at each writer follows.

Thursday, Oct. 25

• 8-9 p.m. – Student Center Auditorium – Readings by Mary Jo Firth Gillett and Wendy Rawlings

Gillett's collection of poems, "Soluble Fish," published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2007, won the 2006 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Gillett teaches poetry workshops for Springfed Arts-Metro Detroit Writers and co-edited the anthology, "Mona Poetica." Her poetry appears in publications such as the Gettysburg Review, Southern Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Green Mountain Review and in the anthology "New Poems from the Third Coast: Contemporary Michigan Poets."

Rawlings won the Ohio State University Prize in Short Fiction with her collection, "Come Back Irish" and won the 2007 Michigan Literary Award for her novel, "The Agnostics." Her essays and stories also appear in The Atlantic Monthly, Agni, Tin House, Fourth Genre and Cincinnati Review. She is part of the graduate faculty in creative writing at the University of Alabama.

• 9-10 p.m. – Festival Reception, J.W. Corker Lounge in the SIUC Student Center

Friday, Oct. 26

• 10-10:50 a.m. – Student Center Auditorium – Poetry Panel featuring Betty Adcock, Mary Jo Firth Gillett, Patricia Spears Jones, James Kimbrell and Simone Muench

Adcock teaches at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. A Guggenheim Fellow for 2002-2003, she was a Distinguished Visiting Professor at North Carolina State University in 2003. Her poetry books include the award-winning "Intervale: New and Selected Poems," and "Walking Out," "Nettles," "Beholdings," and "The Difficult Wheel."

Jones has two poetry collections, including "Femme du Monde," which was named one of the Top Ten Poetry Collections of 2006 by www.About.com's Poetry Forum. She is part of the downtown New York City poetry and theater scenes, and works with the experimental Mabou Mines theater collective, for which she wrote "Song for New York." She writes a column for Calabar Magazine and teaches workshops.

Kimbrell's poetry collection, "My Psychic," won the 2007 Devil's Kitchen Reading Award in Poetry. His other works include the collection, "The Gatehouse Heaven," co-translation of a collection of modern Korean poetry and poems appearing in "The Bread Loaf Anthology of New American Poets," "American Poetry: The Next Generation" and "Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century." He is an associate professor of creative writing at Florida State University.

Muench won awards for her first two books of poems. "The Air Lost in Breathing," her first book, won the Marianne Moore Prize. Her second, "Lampblack and Ash," won the Kathryn A. Morton Prize for Poetry and was an editor's choice for the "New York Times Book Reivew." She has two chapbooks and her poems appear in such publications as Iowa Review, Denver Quarterly, Luna and Swink as well as the anthology "The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for a New Century." She directs the writing program at Lewis University, teaching both creative writing and film studies. She is on the advisory board for Switchback Books and is an editor for Sharkforum.

• 11-11:50 a.m. – Student Center Auditorium – Fiction Panel featuring Kerry Neville Bakken, Dale Ray Phillips and Wendy Rawlings

Bakken's collection of short stories, "Necessary Lies," is the 2007 Devil's Kitchen Reading Award in Prose winner. An assistant professor of English at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, she has stories in Glimmer Train, Story Quarterly and Arts and Letters.

Phillips holds the Watkins Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at Murray State University. His stories appear in his collection, "My People's Waltz," and in publications including The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Ploughshares, Best American Short Stories, and New Stories From the South: The Year's Best.

• 2-3 p.m. – Student Center Auditorium – Readings by Simone Muench and Betty Adcock

• 3:15-4:30 p.m. – Old Main Lounge, Student Center – Festival readers' reception and book signing

• 5-6 p.m. – Student Center Auditorium – Readings by James Kimbrell and Kerry Neville Bakken

Saturday, Oct. 27

• 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. – Student Center Auditorium – Readings from the new anthology "Surreal South." Readings include several of the authors and the editors, Laura Benedict and Pinckney Benedict.

• 2-3 p.m. – Student Center Auditorium – Readings by Dale Ray Phillips and Patricia Spears Jones