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Pulitzer-winning poet, noted authors tapped for 21st annual Welty Writers’ Symposium Oct. 22-24


Special to The Dispatch



Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Mississippi native Natasha Trethewey will be joined by 12 other authors in honoring the legacy of Mississippi University for Women alumna Eudora Welty during the 21st annual Eudora Welty Writer’s Symposium Oct. 22-24 on the MUW campus.  


The public is welcome to the symposium organized by the Department of Languages, Literature and Philosophy and College of Arts and Sciences. Admission is free to all events, including an art exhibit and drama presentation. 


The symposium theme is “Time Goes Like a Dream No Matter How Hard You Run,” a line from Eudora Welty’s “A Shower of Gold” from her collection “The Golden Apples.”  


According to Dr. Kendall Dunkelberg, symposium director, “The dream of time is on all our minds as we celebrate MUW’s 125th anniversary and Eudora Welty’s Centenary year. We look to stories of our past, which at times can be chillingly honest, to inform our dreams for the future.”  


The symposium begins Oct. 22, which is MUW’s Founder’s Day, the day the doors of the University were first opened in 1884. Special anniversary events have been added, including a reception for MUW’s student literary magazine, The Dilettanti, at 4 p.m. Oct. 23 and, on Oct. 24, a noon picnic lunch with the authors followed by a new afternoon session. 




Keynote speaker 


The theme of time has figured prominently in the works of Natasha Trethewey, who will read Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Nissan Auditorium of Parkinson Hall. Trethewey returns for her second symposium appearance to read from her third volume of poetry, “Native Guard,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2007, and in which she weaves the stories of her family with those of the 2nd Louisiana Native Guard, one of the first all-African-American regiments to see battle in the Union army.  


Trethewey has received the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize for Poetry, the Lillian Smith Award for Poetry in 2001 and the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. She was also named Georgia Woman of the Year in 2008.  


A reception and book signing with Trethewey and the rest of the symposium authors will follow the reading. 




Oct. 23 program 


The symposium will resume at 9 a.m. Oct. 23 in Cochran Hall Ballroom with novelist Tony Earley, author of “Jim, The Boy” and “The Blue Star,” both recounting the life of Jim Glass, first as a 10-year-old boy and in the sequel as a 17-year-old high school senior growing up in rural North Carolina during the Depression and World War II.  


The morning’s second author will be Alabama native Ravi Howard. His debut novel, “Like Trees, Walking,” fictionalizes a 1981 lynching in Mobile, Ala. The recipient of a Hurston/Wright Award and the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, Howard is an Emmy winner for his work on HBO’s “Inside the NFL.”  


Next, Eudora Welty Scholar and winner of this year’s Welty Prize, Pearl Amelia McHaney will discuss her recently edited books, “Eudora Welty as Photographer” and “Occasions: Selected Writings by Eudora Welty.” McHaney has published widely on Southern literature and edited three previous books on Welty. 


The morning concludes with Becky Gould Gibson, author of the recent “Aphrodite’s Daughter,” winner of Texas A&M University Press’s X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize, and “Need-Fire,” winner of the Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Award. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Gibson is professor emeritus of English and Women’s Studies at Guilford College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 




Afternoon session, round table 


After lunch, the symposium continues at 1:30 p.m. in Cochran Hall with Melissa Delbridge reading from “Family Bible.” Set in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the memoir recounts Delbridge’s years growing during desegregation. Delbridge is MUW’s Common Reading Initiative author and appears in cooperation with the CRI program and the Ina E. Gordy Honors College. She will spend the week prior to the symposium in residence on campus, meeting with students. 


Next on the program is Jim Murphy, author of the new volume of poems “Heaven Overland.” Murphy is poetry editor for Red Mountain Review, a Birmingham-based literary journal, and professor of English at University of Montevallo, where he directs the annual Montevallo Literary Festival. 


Symposium authors will gather for a round table discussion, concluding at 4 p.m. with a brief reading and reception honoring The Dilettanti and its predecessors, Oh Lady! and The Ephemera. 




Art and drama 


From 5:30-7:30 p.m. Oct. 23, MUW’s Department of Art and Design will host a reception for an exhibit by artist Terry Strickland in the Eugenia Summer Gallery. 


At 7:30 p.m. in Cromwell Theatre, the MUW Department of Music and Theatre present an open rehearsal of an upcoming production featuring work by Horton Foote, best known for his screenplays of “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Tender Mercies.”  




Oct. 24 program, picnic 


The symposium continues Saturday, Oct. 24, at 9:30 a.m. with Bridget Smith Pieschel, editor of “Golden Days: Reminiscences of MSCW Alumnae 1926-1957,” compiled from interviews conducted by the student/alumnae collaborative Oral History Program of MUW’s Southern Women’s Institute (now the Center for Women’s Research and Public Policy), which Pieschel also directs. She is a past recipient of the MUW Medal of Excellence and was for many years director of the Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium. 


Louisiana native Ken Wells, called “one of the most compelling voices in fiction of the last decade” by The Los Angeles Times, follows Pieschel. He is the author of four novels of the Cajun bayous, collectively known as “The Catahoula Bayou Trilogy,” and “Crawfish Mountain.” A Pulitzer-Prize nominated journalist, Wells is also author of several works of non-fiction. 


Frank X Walker is the author of four poetry collections, including “Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York,” winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award. He is a recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship in Poetry and co-produced the film documentary “Coal Black Voices, The History of the Affrilachian Poets.” Walker is editor and publisher of “PLUCK!: The New Journal of Affrilachian Art & Culture.” He is currently Writer in Residence and lecturer in English at Northern Kentucky University. 


A picnic lunch with authors will take place on the Cochran Hall lawn. The public is invited to bring lunch, or purchase box lunches in advance for $9.25. Contact the College of Arts and Sciences office (Painter Hall, Room 111, 662-329-7386) by Oct. 15, to reserve a lunch. Advance payment is required. 




Afternoon highlights 


The symposium will resume at 1 p.m. with Jesmyn Ward. Her debut novel “Where the Line Bleeds,” set on the rural Mississippi Gulf Coast, follows the tensions between twin brothers, one a dock laborer and the other a drug dealer trying to alleviate their family’s poverty. The novel is an Essence Book Club Selection and an Honor Award recipient from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.  


Jack Riggs will follow, reading from his second novel, “The Fireman’s Wife.” Set in the low country and the hills of South Carolina, the novel tells the stories of Peck, a fireman struggling whether to save his marriage or let his wife have the freedom she seems to need. Named Georgia Author of the Year for 2009, Riggs is also author of the novel “When the Finch Rises.” 


Closing this year’s readings will be symposium director and MUW professor of English, Kendall Dunkelberg, whose second book of poems “Time Capsules” was published this summer by Texas Review Press. Poet Angela Ball writes, “Kendall Dunkelberg’s ‘Time Capsules’ encompass eloquence and sense, memory and implication. These skillful poems give us much to admire, and even more to taste, to see.” 


Dunkelberg’s first collection, “Landscapes and Architectures,” appeared in 2001. He has published many translations, including “Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus,” poems of the Belgian po



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