Deep Song Poetry Reading: Matthew Guenette

By Victoria Pan

A lot of people think of poetry as something loftier and more inaccessible than prose. Despite its relative concision, it’s somehow still intimidating, with its stanzas and line breaks organized in a way that makes some feel like they need a cryptography degree just to figure out what’s going on. Matthew Guenette used to feel the same way before he got into writing, calling all the poetry he read in school “old” and “faraway”.

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Matthew Guenette

If that’s the case, then his poetry is modern and immediate, featuring everyday life in all of its questionable glory. Guenette’s first writing inspirations were comics, and it shows in his poetry. His is a humor that a more highbrow reviewer would call “earthy”, which really just means he’s not afraid to get elbows-deep into life’s sh*t, sometimes literally. Case in point: his new chapbook, American Busboy, is based on his experiences busing tables to get through college. It contains moments that personally, as someone currently working at a restaurant to get through college, made me say “Oh, my God” out loud.

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Ruta Sepetys Speaks to English Majors

On Tuesday, September 26, bestselling author and recent Carnegie Medal recipient Ruta Sepetys spoke to an intimate gathering of BU English majors. Over the course of ninety minutes, she regaled aspiring writers with inspiring stories of her transition from the music business into life as a hugely successful young adult novelist

Sepetys, the author of Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy, and Salt to the Sea, began by explaining how her 22 years in the music industry telling others’ stories through writing press releases and artist biographies led eventually to the realization that she had her own story to tell. As a child of a Lithuanian refugee who had fled from his home in 1940, she knew part of that story through her father, whose harrowing tales of last-minute escapes and of long years in refugee camps–and of their relatives who did not make it out alive–gave her a starting point for what eventually became her first novel, Between Shades of Gray, which has been translated into 37 languages and published in 53 countries.

The successful publication of her Between Shades of Gray, however, had its own long history, including the emotionally difficult research involving interviews with survivors of Stalin’s takeover; the 16 painstaking revisions she undertook before submission; the excruciating wait before hearing from publishers after submission; and the 4 year additional wait between selling the novel and its publication in 2011.

Sepetys also discussed the value of archives in historical research, but emphasized the importance in making human connections, like the garrulous retired New Orleans mobster she interviewed for her second novel, Out of the Easy. “Hunting for hidden histories,” as she termed it, also led her to the subject of her most recent novel, Salt to the Sea, which chronicles Germany’s Operation Hannibal during World War II and the single largest maritime disaster in human history.

For Ruta Sepetys, “telling stories for the true witnesses” has become her life’s calling. Throughout her talk and the question and answer session that followed, she emphasized finding her literary voice and rhythm; being open about what she is working on (it has helped her find people and resources she needed); revising continually, even while she is doing readings of her own work; and, most importantly of all for aspiring writers, “getting my butt in the chair” to produce good work.

 

 

 

Dead Poets Society Holds Inaugural Meeting

No, there was no secret cave, and no, it wasn’t just a bunch of sheltered prep school boys. But Whitman was read, and Lincoln was mentioned…

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Dr. Marcia McDonald reads from “The Wanderer”

Last Friday morning a group of students and faculty met to read poems related to the theme of “Home and Exile” in anticipation of the next week’s Humanities Symposium. After memorializing the building that used to sit on the site (our old home, Wheeler Humanities), Dr. David Curtis got the main event started by reading Edgar Albert Guest’s “Home.”

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Max Mason lays down some Blake

By the end of the 45-minute session, participants had read poems by William Blake, Edwin Arlington Robinson, William Butler Yeats, Claude McKay, Anne Sexton, Jack Gilbert, Emma Lazarus, Walt Whitman, Philip Larkin, Kenneth Burke, and even Abraham Lincoln.

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The next meeting of the Dead Poets Society will be in the old Aviary on October 20, when we’ll be celebrating the poetry of–and about–Edgar Allan Poe.

Local Event Highlight: 2017 Tennessee Writing Workshop

By Charlsie Johnson

On Saturday, July 22nd, Writing Day Workshops hosted the annual Tennessee Writing Workshop at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Nashville Cool Springs. The summer 2017 event’s focus: “How to Get Published,” consisted of a full day of instructional meetings, pitch schedules, personal critiques with literary agents or editors, and an opportunity to not only ask questions about writing and publication, but also to communicate with 150 fellow writing peers.

The writing day was organized into five, one and a half hour sessions, split between three different conference rooms at the hotel. During these meetings, attendees were able to come and go in accordance to their personal pitch or critique schedules that they registered for online before the event. General admission includes attendance at any of the instructional meetings with the opportunity to pay extra for a 10 minute, one-on-one meeting with a literary agent to pitch original work, an in-depth critique of a one page query letter, or an in-depth personal critique of the first 10 pages of an original novel. All registration and pricing information can be found on the website, as well as an explanation for each critique option.

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The 2017 schedule was jam-packed with very helpful and interesting sessions including: “An Overview of Your Publishing Options Today,” “The Art of Voice: How to Make Your Writing Come to Life,” “Writer’s Got Talent: A Page One Critique Fest,” and “Ten Keys to Writing Success.” Each session was led by a notable writer or representative from a publishing house that spoke about topics related to their experience with a specific aspect of craft or genre. Some of the speakers included freelance editor and author, Chuck Sambuchino, speculative fiction author, C. J. Redwine, and editor, author, publisher, Madeline Smoot.

The sessions covered many genres such as, Young Adult/Middle Grade Fiction, Memoir, Fantasy/Science Fiction, and Romance, while also instructing on helpful topics like, Self-Publishing, Agents and Query Letters, Revision/Self-Editing, and Self-Marketing your original writing. Participating in the event’s headline and most popular session, “A Page One Critique Fest,” were: Beth Phelan from The Bent Agency, Cate Hart from Corvisiero Literary, Mike Parker from WordCrafts Press, Lauren MacLeod from The Strothman Agency, and several other literary agents and editors. In this session, attendees were encouraged to print and anonymously submit multiple copies of the first page of an original novel they are currently working on, in order to receive conference-style feedback, without the pressure of a one-on-one meeting. This was an invaluable experience for those attendees that are seeking an honest critique from a number of literary agents and editors who represent literary agencies with different content focuses. Continue reading “Local Event Highlight: 2017 Tennessee Writing Workshop”

Dr. Murray is Visiting Fellow at Chawton House Library

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Chawton House

During the month of June, Dr. Murray is a Visiting Fellow at the Chawton House Library in Hampshire, England.  The Chawton estate was owned by Jane Austen’s brother Edward, and she revised or drafted all six of her novels in a cottage in Chawton village. During the last two decades, Edward’s manor house has become a preeminent center for the study of women’s writing from 1600-1830.

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Professor Murray in the Fellows Reading Room

Student Presentations: How Structure Shows Power

by Victoria Pan

The Belmont Undergraduate Research Symposium, often shortened to just BURS, is a series of presentations to showcase student work. Moderated by an advising faculty member, students form a panel to share their critical analysis in front of their peers. It’s a highly flattering honor, but also nerve-wracking situation.

Not that you would be able to tell, had you attended “Structuring Voice and Identity: How Narratology Informs Power and Suffering,” just last Thursday, on April 20. The panelists, which included Alexandra Huff, Elliott Neal, Amanda Nicklaus, and Rachel Petty, were all utterly composed and ready to share their thoughts.

All four students shared their work from Dr. Caresse John’s Special Studies in Critical Theory course just last fall, focusing particularly on narratology. Narratology is a structuralist approach in which form is divorced from context. Narratologists examine elements like narration, authorship, speech representation, chronology, metanarration, and narrative space.

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Nashville Shakespeare Performance Archive Launches

By Victoria Pan

For many students, technology and literature exist in two separate spheres, often in opposition to each other. However, for students working on The Nashville Shakespeare Performance Archive, this isn’t the case. For these students, led by Dr. Marcia McDonald, Dr. Joel Overall, and Dr. Jayme Yeo over the past year, technology is a means to preserve and learn from artistry found in Nashville.

These students, separated into five groups, were in charge of video editing, interviews, compiling text, and synthesizing information. The project currently encompasses the Nashville Shakespeare Company’s performance of Comedy of Errors and will also include the Hamlet performance coming in the spring of 2018. Their work divides plays into four sections: directing, songwriting, acting, and costuming. The impressive results of all of their hard work can be found at https://shakespeare.belmont.edu/.

However, all of this was inspired by and made possible with the help of Dr. Laura Estill, editor of the World Shakespeare Bibliography and Associate Professor of English at Texas A&M University. During her keynote speech on April 21, she spoke about what inspired her work. Her focus, she said, is in the digital humanities: an ever-fluid field that studies humanities through digital means and specializes in the ways online sources assist and expand scholarship. Shakespeare, in particular, already was a digital phenomenon before the creation of the World Shakespeare Bibliography, and this is only becoming more and more evident. For Dr. Estill, technology helps to bridge the gap between the then of the Elizabethan era with the now of today. Continue reading “Nashville Shakespeare Performance Archive Launches”