Acclaimed authors Bernice L. McFadden and Tyehimba Jess to read at SMU’s 2016 Kimbilio Litfest Thursday, Oct. 13

Department of English

Acclaimed authors Bernice L. McFadden and Tyehimba Jess to read at SMU’s 2016 Kimbilio Litfest Thursday, Oct. 13

Kimbilio Fiction logoLiterature fans and aspiring authors at SMU and throughout North Texas have an opportunity to meet and read with acclaimed writers Bernice L. McFadden and Tyehimba Jess at SMU’s second annual Kimbilio Litfest.

The group will meet Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, in McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall. A reception will be held at 6 p.m., with readings scheduled from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Professor of English and Creative Writing Director David Haynes started the Kimbilio project in 2012 as a writers’ retreat at SMU-in-Taos. Kimbilio, which means “safe haven” in Swahili, is “a community of writers and scholars committed to developing, empowering and sustaining fiction writers from the African diaspora and their stories,” according to its mission statement.

> Learn more about Kimbilio at kimbiliofiction.com

This year’s guest authors:

Bernice L. McFaddenBernice L. McFadden is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels including Sugar, Loving Donovan, Nowhere Is a Place, The Warmest December, Gathering of Waters (a New York Times Editors’ Choice and one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012), and Glorious, which was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. She is a three-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of three awards from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA). She lives in Brooklyn, New York. McFadden will read from hter latest novel, The Book of Harlan.

Visit Bernice L. McFadden’s personal homepage: bernicemcfadden.com

Tyehimba JessTyehimba Jess, a Cave Canem and NYU alumnus, received a 2004 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and was a 2004-05 Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. His first book of poetry, leadbelly, was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. The Library Journal and Black Issues Book Review both named it one of the “Best Poetry Books of 2005.” His other honors include a 2000-01 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Poetry, the 2001 Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award, and a 2006 Whiting Fellowship. Olio, his second collection, was published by Wave Books in April 2016.

Visit Tyehimba Jess’ personal homepage: tyehimbajess.net

> Visit SMU’s Department of English online: smu.edu/english

October 13, 2016|Calendar Highlights, Faculty in the News, News|

Willard Spiegelman poem featured in new collection inspired by Thomas Jefferson

Book cover of 'Monticello in Mind'SMU’s campus centerpiece, Dallas Hall, has inspired a poem published alongside the works of Pulitzer Prize winners in the poetry anthology Monticello in Mind: Fifty Contemporary Poets on Jefferson (University of Virginia Press).

That’s Jefferson as in Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States.

What’s the connection between Dallas Hall and one of America’s founding fathers? It doesn’t take Nicolas Cage and a map hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence to find out.

“When the founders of SMU went to Chicago to find an architect for their first building, they said they wanted Dallas Hall to look like The Rotunda at the University of Virginia (which was designed by Jefferson), but of course bigger,” says Willard Spiegelman, Hughes Professor of English in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

The author of the Dallas Hall-inspired poem explains, “My first thought was, ‘Jefferson went to the prairie.’”

The poem, titled Prairie Rotunda, is one of 50 poems featured in Monticello in Mind. An excerpt is below:

The Monticello ladies politely call him, still,

“Mister Jefferson,” spokesman for sanity.

And on north Texas plains, more arid

than his “little mountain” landscape, we too have

something of his legacy, in stone and Kansas brick.

— Kenny Ryan

> Visit SMU’s Department of English homepage: smu.edu/english

February 17, 2016|Faculty in the News, For the Record, News|

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan to visit SMU Feb. 25, 2016

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Kay RyanFormer U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan will present a reading of her poetry at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, following a 6 p.m. reception in room 131 of SMU’s Dedman Life Sciences Building.

The event is cohosted by SMU English Professor Willard Spiegelman, the SMU Department of English and the Gilbert Lecture Series.

“Ryan will be reading from her poetry, presumably a mix of recent and earlier work,” Spiegelman says. “She is very engaging, humorous and compatible in an approachable way. She has a wonderful stage presence.”

In addition to serving as the nation’s 16th Poet Laureate from 2008-2010, Ryan has won a Pulitzer Prize and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011 – a prestigious distinction.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the SMU Department of English at 214-768-2945.

— Kenny Ryan

January 29, 2016|Calendar Highlights, News|

Moby Dick-inspired card game by SMU professor and students exposes subversive humor in Melville’s classic novel

'DICK, the card game' box setThe upcoming movie In the Heart of the Sea promises to offer a potentially Oscar-worthy take on the whale hunt that inspired Henry Melville’s Moby Dick. For folks who still giggle at the title, there’s another way to enjoy that classic novel this winter: DICK, the card game, from the mind of SMU English Professor Tim Cassedy.

Moby Dick is really, really funny,” Cassedy says. “You can downplay the irreverence and read the book as a very earnest story about American ruggedness and Ahab’s will and vengeance, and it is those things. But if you go into it knowing Melville is often kidding, it reads completely differently.”

DICK, the card game, exposes that humor.

In a concept familiar to anyone who’s played Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, DICK is a humorous game of “complete the sentence.” Each turn, one player serves as a judge and asks their fellow players to submit cards that complete the sentence on one of the prompt cards, which contain phrases such as:

“Oh yeah? Well I graduated from the University of _______!” or, “Ted Cruz caused a stir today when he called a press conference to denounce ______.”

The player whose response card most tickles the judge’s fancy wins the round.

> Read more about DICK, the card game in the SMU Campus Weekly

What sets DICK apart from its play-on-words peers is that the response cards all contain quotes from Moby Dick. This is where it quickly becomes apparent that Moby Dick is, indeed, rife with toilet humor.

“Humor is something everyone can relate to – especially low-brow humor,” says co-developer Chelsea Grogan. “It makes Moby Dick accessible, and not this ivory tower we make it out to be.”

Potential response cards include: “An eruption of bears,” “Immaculate manliness” and “A sort of badger-haired old merman.”

Cassedy, Grogan and Jenna Peck came up with DICK while Grogan and Peck (recent SMU graduates) were students in one of Cassedy’s spring classes. They debuted the game at a conference of English professors from across Texas, where it was a hit. DICK, the card game is now selling in select bookstores around the country and online at whysoever.com.

— Kenny Ryan

December 8, 2015|Faculty in the News, News|

2015 Kimbilio Litfest will introduce African-American fiction writers’ organization to SMU Thursday, Oct. 15

Kimbilio Fiction logoLiterature fans and aspiring authors in SMU’s Dallas neighborhood have an opportunity to get acquainted with an African-American fiction writer’s group, founded by a University faculty member, that hosts an annual retreat at SMU-in-Taos.

The inaugural Kimbilio Litfest tour stops on the main campus from 6-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in 131 Dedman Life Sciences Building. The event is sponsored by the SMU Department of English.

2015 Kimbilio Litfest banner

“This is our first opportunity to introduce Kimbilio to Texas,” says Professor of English and Creative Writing Director David Haynes, who started Kimbilio in 2012. “These are some really extraordinary writers and readers, and we’re really excited to present this emerging national organization to Dallas and the SMU community.”

> Learn more about Kimbilio at kimbiliofiction.com

October’s guest authors include these literary lights:

  • Reginald Dwayne Betts is the author of two books and one poetry collection. Jailed at a young age, Betts spent his late teen years in solitary confinement. While in prison, he corresponded with any poet who would write him back. Once released, he earned an undergraduate degree from Maryland and then a Masters degree in writing from Warren Wilson College. He’s now in his third year at Yale Law. [More about Reginald Dwayne Betts at the Poetry Foundation]
  • Sanderia Faye is a Kimbilio Fellow and author of Mourner’s Bench (University of Arkansas Press, September 2015). Her work has appeared in various literary journals and in Arsnick: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Arkansas. Faye is also a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas-Dallas. [Sanderia Faye at sanderiafaye.com]
  • Ravi Howard is the author of two novels, Driving the King (Harper, 2015) and Like Trees, Walking (Amistad, 2007), which received the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence and was a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction. Howard has recorded commentary for NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Massachusetts Review, and Salon. [Ravi Howard on Facebook: Ravi.Howard]
  • LaToya Watkins is a Kimbilio Fellow who has has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and Kimbilio Fiction. Her stories have appeared in online and print publications including Joyland Magazine, Lunch Ticket: Antioch, Los Angeles, Kweli Journal, Ruminate Magazine and Potomac Review. Most recently, she was awarded a 2015 Pushcart Prize for short fiction. [LaToya Watkins on Twitter: @LaToyaSWatkins]
  • Rosalyn Story is a Dallas resident, Kimbilio Fellow, classical violinist, journalist and author of both fiction and nonfiction. A member of the violin section of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, she divides her time between performing and writing magazine and journal articles on the visual and performing arts. She has also penned three books – including Wading Home, which was adapted as an opera through a collaboration between SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts and the cities of Dallas and New Orleans. [More about Rosalyn Story at GoodReads.com]

Written by Kenny Ryan

> Visit SMU’s Department of English online: smu.edu/english

October 8, 2015|Calendar Highlights, For the Record, News, Save the Date|
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