Warren Wilson Commencement Address 7/14/17
To our amazing class of graduates, and to their devoted, forbearing, patient and generous parents, children, spouses and friends, I want to begin by saying how privileged I am to be up here to officially congratulate you all on this happy day of celebration. This achievement surely belongs to all of you. Think back, beloved graduates, to the day you announced to your families your intention to pursue an MFA, or even further back when you revealed to them your passion for writing. In my case, I was sixteen years old when I let slip to my parents that I intended to make my way in the world as a poet. I come from a long line of MD’s, not doctors, but meat dealers. You can imagine how my parents took the news. My father said, “A what?” as if I’d just announced plans to become a shepherd or a male belly dancer. “A poet.” I said. I want to write poetry for a living. Was I joking? Was I trying to disprove the stereotype that all Jews make money? Didn’t I realize I wouldn’t make enough to buy a pair of slippers. I said something to the effect that making enough isn’t what I want from life. My dad shot back, “Then be a lawyer for god’s sake, you’ll make more than enough!” Your families, I’m sure, weren’t quite as nonplussed as mine. For here they all are, today, not just to applaud your achievement, how far you’ve come, how hard you’ve worked, but to give you hope and courage for the marathon you’re about to run.
The undeniable and irreducibly unique abilities that got you accepted to this program in the first place have now been challenged, cajoled, goaded, and “annotated” into what I think of as the two ingredients indispensable to a writer’s life: humility and arrogance, humility that acknowledges the need to never stop learning, and the arrogance that assumes you’ll always be smart enough to learn anything that someone else is smart enough to teach you. Above and beyond refinements of craft, this program has taught you that writing is itself a life long non-degree conferring program from which there is no graduation, and that the longer you work at the art we love, the more of a beginner you become. As graduates of Warren Wilson, you have now officially entered the Ground Hog Day Academy of the writing world, in which everyone’s a permanent freshman and every day’s the first day of class. (more…)
The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College
Class of July 2017:
Mark Elber (poetry)
Esme Franklin (poetry)
Sarah Gauch (fiction)
Amy Lin (fiction)
Leigh Lucas (poetry)
Trish Marshall (poetry)
Micah Matthews (fiction)
Amanda Newell (poetry)
Tiana Nobile (poetry)
Laura Otis (fiction)
Andrew Peterson (fiction)
Maya Phillips (poetry)
Blake Reemstma (poetry)
Susan Jo Russell (poetry)
David Saltzman (fiction)
Nomi Stone (poetry)
Peter Schireson (poetry)
In or near Asheville? Here’s why you should get up to campus for our readings:
From fiction writer Christopher Castellani:
The slate of evening readings at Warren Wilson is like a “Best-Of” playlist. You sit back and enjoy ten-minute samples of some of the best literary fiction and poetry written by both established and emerging voices. The work is often new or in-progress, available only in that form on that one night, which makes for an exciting sneak preview as well as a window into the process of drafting and revision.
From poet C. Dale Young:
It is a rare thing to have the chance to hear more than 20 acclaimed writers, many of whom have won major book awards and fellowships, read over the span of one week. Every January and July, the greater Asheville area has just such an opportunity with the nightly MFA faculty readings at Warren Wilson.
From fiction writer Andrea Barrett:
Warren Wilson is my favorite place to read, as well as my favorite place to listen to readings. I love the mixture of fiction and poetry, the variety, and the consistent brilliance of my MFA colleagues—that sense, when we’re reading together, that we are all joined in a shared project, blissfully contributing our own little bit to something larger. What a treat, to visit this heavenly snack bar of literary delights!
From poet Heather McHugh:
These residency readings are remarkable for casting light on a range of literary arts, and for setting a high bar for performance. There is a scatter of discerning fellow-artists throughout the audience each night to keep all of us percolating, right in the midst of an arts residency’s ten-day exchange of ideas and excitements. Readers and listeners are all artists themselves, gifted across a broad array of modes. That fact contributes to a feeling of ongoing colloquium each evening, a kaleidoscope of contemporary literary figures and tones that resolves, finally, into an incomparable esprit de corps.
Between now and July 14, check here on the blog for the schedule of daily readings and lectures.
The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College
Public Schedule – July 2017
The public is welcome to attend the morning lectures and evening readings in fiction
and poetry offered during the Master of Fine Arts Program summer residency.
Events last approximately one hour. Admission is free. The schedule is subject to change.
For more information, call the MFA Office: (828) 771-3715
Readings will begin at 8:15 PM in Gladfelter, Canon Lounge, unless indicated otherwise.
READINGS by FACULTY
Wednesday, July 5—8:00 PM
Ana Menéndez, Maurice Manning, Hanna Pylväinen, Robin Romm, C. Dale Young
Thursday, July 6
Stephen Dobyns, Daisy Fried, Matthew Olzmann, Dominic Smith, Sarah Stone
Friday, July 7
Brooks Haxton, Debra Spark, Peter Turchi, and a tribute to Thomas Lux
Saturday, July 8
Karen Brennan, Christopher Castellani, Jeremy Gavron, Rodney Jones, Sally Keith
Sunday, July 9
Debra Allbery, Andrea Barrett, Alan Shapiro, Robert Boswell
Monday, July 10—no readings
Tuesday, July 11
Liam Callanan, Heather McHugh, David Haynes, Paul Otremba, Laura van den Berg (more…)
The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College is delighted to announce the faculty for its summer 2017 semester:
Debra Allbery (Director)
Laura van den Berg
Ellen Bryant Voigt
C. Dale Young