Each May, as the families of undergrad seniors come to Philly for their kids' commencement, we hold a celebration to honor a group of students who have been closely--sometimes very closely--affiliated with the Writers House. This year's "senior capstone event" honored 12 seniors.
Greg Manning came to the Writers House in September 2006, almost exactly five years later, to discuss writing about his and his wife's experiences during and after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
The first Blutt Singer-Songwriter Symposium at the Kelly Writers House featured Rosanne Cash. The event took place on April 12. Anthony DeCurtis moderated a Q&A; with Rosanne, and she played several of her songs (guitar and voice only--what a treat), including a favorite of mine, "Black Cadillac." The session was recorded and audio is available for free download (right-click on the link above). The July/August 2007 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette includes a good article about the program. Rosanne will be a hard act to follow, as it were, but we'll be hosting another singer-songwriter symposium next spring. The photo here is of Sam Preston, Penn's eminent demographer and former dean (and avid songwriter himself), with Rosanne after a wonderful celebratory dinner in the Writers House dining room.
Melanie Almeder has a new book of poems out, On Dream Street. "La Pluie," a poem written "after Marc Chagall," is in the Wallace Stevens idiom: "The only green thing: the tree at the center, / bent by the pull of wind in the frail sails of its blossoms." I'd say Almeder is not a Stevensian poet overall: she believes in natural description and doesn't dwell on abstractions as lovely in themselves. But she's got the Stevens phrasing here and there and it's personally gratifying to me that she does. Why? Because I taught her, not at Penn as a member of the faculty--but at Virginia when I was there teaching as a doctoral student. Melanie was even then--as a freshman--a fine writer and a great student. And I recall that in class (although it was supposed to be a composition class of sorts) I read aloud from Stevens' poetry semi-obsessively. The book is published by Tupelo.