Summer 2016 in Morgantown is one that only comes around every 17 years. As droves of loud, loquacious, loveable students packed up their bags and departed, a different sort of loud, loquacious, perhaps less-loveable crowd moved into town. Cicadas crowded sidewalks like undergrads at Fall Fest, left shells along the rail trail that crunched like autumn leaves, and sounded mating calls that could drown out the fireworks at a WVU football game. In other words, they filled the void that is normally left in a college town such as Morgantown while students are away.
The cicadas also kept those MFA students who elected to spend their summer in town company. Many of our students teach summer composition courses, a fast-paced 6-week version of the regular classes they teach during the school year. MFAs also took literature classes over the summer, such as Program Director Mary Ann Samyn’s free verse poetry course, while others continued to work other jobs around town. Students also found time to take trips into Pittsburgh to visit Kennywood, the local amusement park, do day hikes at Cooper’s Rock, and attend events around town, such as a steel drum band show at the Brew Pub. Some MFA students left town to pursue adventures elsewhere, including internships at magazines, summer camp positions, and old stand-by money-making gigs like retail and food service.
Reading and writing is of course another priority for us during these months. Megan Fahey, a third-year fiction student, found a new favorite in Your House is on Fire Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye. Third-year fiction student Kelsey Englert enjoyed Ellen Foster, a novel by Kaye Gibbons. Other students kept up with their writing by setting a daily summer schedule and word count goals. Many third-year students are taking advantage of the time to get a jump start on their looming thesis.
As for now, the cicadas have dissipated, leaving an almost eerie quiet that will soon be filled as students arrive in August for another school year. But for now, we can bask in the peaceful end-of-summer glow that Morgantown offers, letting drops slide down our beer glasses as we sit on patios watching the sun tuck itself away behind the mountains, and eventually move inside to get a few words in (read or written) before another day of summer slips away.
We are thrilled to share 2014 MFA alumna, Christina Seymour’s chapbook, “Flowers Around Your Soft Throat” has been published by Structo!
The chapbook is built around Seymour’s 2015 winning entry for Structo’s psalms contest, “A Song of Loves.” From Structo’s blog post on the release:
“Clothes sleep in the closet. We outlive our dogs. We become our parents. Seymour explores all these themes through meditations on nature, psalm translation, and ekphrastic poems on Rothko, Rossetti, and Song Dynasty silks. Her subtle music recreates the quiet of the everyday while speaking of what lies beneath.”
You can read a sample poem on Structo’s blog, and you may purchase a copy of the chapbook here.#
On Sunday, May 15th, four of our graduating MFA students participated in Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Doctoral and Master’s Commencement at WVU’s Coliseum.
Left to right: Feagin Jones, Barrett Lipkin, Maryann Hudak, and Melissa Ferone
Please join us in congratulating all of our wonderful graduates on their hard work the last three years! We look forward to reading all their writing to come.
Maggie Behringer, Fiction
Emily Denton, Fiction
Melissa Ferrone, Creative Non-Fiction
Hailey Foglio, Fiction
Claire Fowler, Creative Non-Fiction
Maryann Hudak, Creative Non-Fiction
Feagin Jones, Creative Non-Fiction
Barrett Lipkin, Poetry
Travis Mersing, Poetry
Shaun Turner, Fiction
Enjoying their last moments as WVU classmates.
It was standing room only in the Rhododendron Room at WVU’s Mountainlair for the MFA hooding ceremony on Thursday, April 28th at 7:30pm. Family, friends, classmates, and colleagues gathered to hear the graduating third-year MFA students read from the culmination of their graduate worktheir thesis.
“You’ve written the stories and essays and poems you needed to write,” Mary Ann Samyn, Director of the Creative Writing Program, said to the ten graduates. “And we’ve been happy to keep you company along the way.”
Each graduate was introduced by his or her thesis director and received a hood that symbolized the completion of their graduate degree. The readings each began in very different placessky blue bruises, tomatoes, a butterfly shrub, explorations with a young niece, drawings of dead bodies, graves, oil, birth, dreams, snakesbut they all ended in the same way: enthusiastic applause and a wide smile from the writer who penned the words. You can listen to the entire reading here.
Congratulations to the WVU MFA Class of 2016!
(in order of reading)
Melissa Ferrone (Manassas, VA)
Maryann Hudak (Solon, OH)
Shaun Turner (Richmond, KY)
Travis Mersing (Aurora, WV)
Hailey Foglio (Salem, WI)
Feagin Jones (Richmond, KY)
Barrett Lipkin (Virginia Beach, VA)
Emily Denton (Franklin, TN)
Claire Fowler (Charleston, WV)
Maggie Behringer (Chattanooga, TN)
For the past 25 years, WVU has proudly supported Calliope, an award-winning student-run literary journal that exclusively features WVU undergraduate writers of poetry and prose from any major. Each year a new editorial staff and readers are chosen to solicit and accept submissions and to design and print the year’s edition.
Editor-in-chief Caleb Milne served as master of ceremonies for the reading
A reading was held on Thursday, April 21, to celebrate the 2016 issue, which had just arrived that afternoon. Mary Ann Samyn, Calliope’s faculty advisor, introduced the event and then handed the evening over to Caleb Milne, this year’s editor-in-chief. Contributing authors in attendance read from their work published in the journal:
Christopher Henry – poetry
Patrick Bayley – poetry
Shana Burleson – prose
Jordan Carter – poetry
J. M. Jarrett – poetry
Lindsay Terlikowski – poetry and prose
Victor Warnock – poetry and prose
Amanda Gaines – poetry and prose
Travis Kent – prose
Caleb Milne – poetry
Some of the readers from the evening
Congratulations to these and all of the contributing Calliope authors.
And a special congratulations to this year’s staff (along with all of their readers) for producing another delightful issue:
Caleb Milne – Editor-in-Chief
Allison Eckman – Fiction Editor
Mitchell Glazier – Poetry Editor
Alexandra Vaughn – Nonfiction Editor
Patrick Bayley – Designer
Calliope’s 2016 editorial staff, from left to right: Patrick Bayley, Mitchell Glazier, Alexandra Vaughn, Caleb Milne, Allison Eckman
To hear a recording of the reading, visit the Creative Readings Podcast, hosted by the Center for Literary Computing.
Author Jayne Anne Phillips reading from Quiet Dell
Based on a real life crime, Quiet Dell tells the 1931 story of a Chicago family whose lives all end tragically in a garage in West Virginia at the hands of a con-man who preys on widows. The novel first unfolds through multiple voices from within the family and then continues from the perspective a Chicago journalist covering the trial. Phillips began her reading with factual background about the crime and the characters, then read from several sections throughout the book to provide the story arcbut without giving the final secrets away.
Phillips is known for her five novels and two story collections, particularly her 1994 novel, Shelter, and her 1979 debut collection, Black Tickets, which is said to have influenced a generation of writers. She is currently Board of Governors Professor of English and director of the MFA program at Rutgers University-Newark. WVU creative writing professor Christa Parravani studied with Phillips during her MFA.
Before you read Quiet Dell, be sure to listen to the recording of her reading for insights into the crime and characters from which the novel was created. Thanks to the Center for Literary Computing’s Creative Readings Podcast for recording the event.
Second-year MFA student, Megan Fahey
We would like to recognize and extend our congratulations to Megan Fahey, second-year MFA student, for winning the Eberly College Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award for the English Department. She was recognized at both the English Department’s award ceremony on Wednesday, April 16, and the Eberly College of Art and Science’s award ceremony on Saturday, April 19.
On the right, Megan received her award at the Eberly College’s award ceremony from the new Dean of Eberly College, Gregory Dunaway
Since coming to WVU, she has taught English 101 and 102 as well as technical writing. In addition, last year she served as a Center for Writing Excellence Assistant Coordinator, helping to train and mentor new GTAs, among other duties. She plans to continue to serve in that role next year and looks forward to teaching a creative writing course in the fall.
Congratulations, Megan! And thank you for your dedication to teaching and to WVU students.
The Council of Writers (COW) hosted their annual spring reading in Colson Hall on Thursday, April 7, featuring poet and essayist Hugh Martin.
Hugh Martin, author of The Stick Soldiers
Originally from northeast Ohio, Martin spent six years in the Army National Guard and eleven months in Iraq. His chapbook, So, How Was The War? (Kent State University Press, 2010) was published by the Wick Poetry Center and his full-length collection, The Stick Soldiers, which won the 2011 A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize, was published through BOA Editions, Ltd, in 2013. He is the recipient of a Wallace Stegner Fellowship and the winner of the Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award from The Iowa Review. His poems have appeared in journals such as the New Yorker, Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, Crazyhorse, and New Republic. Martin graduated from Muskingum University and has an MFA from Arizona State. Currently he is the Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College.
Martin started the reading with an essay about veteran stereotypes and identity called “Three Great Lyric Passages.” This short essay focuses on two brief episodes in his life a couple years after returning to Iraq and reflects on his behavior and the impulses behind it. Following that, he read poems from The Stick Soldiers, which stays with more personal material, and then from new poems, in which he moves beyond his own experience into different speakers and the experiences of others. Throughout his reading, Martin offered stories and details about the material, including references to the philosopher Dixon Wecter and William Carlos Williams’s poem “This Is Just to Say.”
The reading closed with a time for questions. When asked if there have been any novels or films that have come out about the Iraq war that resonated with him, Martin recommended the documentaries “Iraq in Fragments” and “Baghdad ER.”
This reading, along with many others, is available from the Center for Literary Computing’s Creative Readings podcast.
And you can read Martin’s ”.50-Cal Gunner” and hear it read by the author on the New Yorker website.
About a dozen MFA students and faculty members spent a long weekend in Los Angeles last week for the annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference. From Wednesday, March 30, through Saturday, April 2, the conference go-ers attended panel discussions about writing, publishing, and teaching, as well as on- and off-site readings and events around downtown LA. West Virginia University Press also coordinated a reading by two of their new authors, Jonathan Corcoran and Jessie van Eerden, whose books have just come out.
MFA students Megan Fahey (left) and Maggie Behringer (right) during a shift at the exhibition table.
Second-year student Whitney Arnold said the Graywolf nonfiction Reading and Conversation panel with authors Geoff Dyer, Leslie Jamison, and Maggie Nelson made the cross-country trek worth it. And professor Glenn Taylor most enjoyed the Hugo House Literary Series All Stars, featuring Jennine Capo Crucet, Natalie Diaz, Roxane Gay, and Jess Walter all reading new work based on a themed prompt. Each author injected the theme with humor, he said, which was a much appreciated interlude.
The English department held a reception at the hotel on Friday night to celebrate fifteen years of WVU’s MFA program, twenty years of the West Virginia Writers’ Workshop, and five years of Cheat River Review. Alums, past English faculty, and newly accepted students were among the many who attended and enjoyed fancy and festive specialty cupcakes.
On Saturday, March 12, as part of their ongoing reading series, Morgantown’s Black Bear Club featured three WVU affiliated writers: Anthony Swofford, SJ Stout, and Mark Brazaitis at 123 Pleasant Street.
First up was Tony Swofford, reading a recent nonfiction essay, “On Being Fat: A Physiological Degredation,” which he said he wrote instead of writing what he was supposed to be working on. He surprised and amused the sizeable audience immediately with his opening line, “The first time I was called [fat] by someone I loved . . .” The first someone was an expensive, pedigreed girlfriend who he, to everyone’s surprise, beat in what was supposed to be a fun tennis match at an Italian resort; another was his personal trainer who left him to join the military. Tony is the author of the memoirs Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails and Jarhead, as well as the novel Exit A. He moved to Morgantown last year with his wife, the writer and WVU professor Christa Parravani.
After a short break for baked goods provided by Brittney Scully, SJ Stout, a first-year MA in literature, won the audience over with poems that were humorous (a sexy dream about Bernie Sanders), poignant (a fawn-shaped hole in her heart), and inaccurate (an epigraph from a sixteenth-century science books that explained how frogs might fall from the sky when their eggs are sucked up into clouds).
And finally, to close an excellent evening, Mark Brazaitis, a WVU faculty member in fiction on sabbatical this semester, read “The Eye Man” from his most recent short story collection, Truth Poker. Mark’s story gave us characters who seemed real to life, if a bit extremeevangelical missionaries in Guatemala helping out a clinic, a doctor who made eyes, a skeptical narrator, a blind boypushed to dark edges, but then brought back to show the humorous and redemptive moments possible in the every day.
To keep track of upcoming Black Bear Club events, check them out or friend them on Facebook.
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