Last week Wallace Shawn, playwright and actor, read from "The Designated Mourner" and talked about theatre, life, and the politics of culture to an overflow audience (sadly, around 50 people were turned away while others hung not only on Shawn's words but on the rafters as well).
It was the 11th annual Burian Lecture, a brilliant program instituted by Grayce and the Jarka Burian. Jarka, a force in American theatre and a major interpreter of Czech theatre (he presented Havel's first production in America). Jarka died last year. It is a pleasure to honor him.
Along the way we talked with Jake Brackman, one of Wally Shawn's classmates at Harvard. And both recalled another classmate, Terrence Malik, the filmmaker, and their collaboration on the film, Days of Heaven.
In all it was a good way to welcome spring.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Saturday, March 17, 2007
We had us a time.
We continue to celebrate the jointure of Fence magazine, the Institute, and the University.
Excellent readings were delivered by Fence's editor, Rebecca Wolff, and some of Fence's valued writers:
Arianna Reines, Prageeta Sharma, and Michael Earl Craig. A more diverse or illuminating reading could not be imagined.
Edward Schwarzchild, treasured Fellow of the Institute, without whose efforts the Fence initiative would never have begun, put it this way:
"I'm completely thrilled with how the stars aligned to bring this radiant journal into the university's orbit. FENCE will be an incredible presence on campus and it will inspire and instruct students at every level of their education, from undergraduate to graduate, across many departments."
A joyous dinner followed, about which more very soon. Do read the previous entry to know what the celebration is about. We will shortly post FENCE's own characterization of the inauguration.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
A Grand Welcome to Fence Magazine
The New York State Writers Institute, the center for the literary arts in New York, proudly announces in concurrence with the University at Albany, the acquisition of Fence Magazine. Fence, called by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard, “our most exciting and well-known literary magazine,” will along with Fence Books, be housed with the Institute and the University.
Donald Faulkner, Director of the Institute, says of the affiliation, “this is one of the most significant literary mergers I can think of, and it gives me great pride and pleasure. With the Institute’s standing as one of the foremost literary organizations in the country, known for its reading series, its work in film and theatre, and with its great archive, having a great publication to work with us is like a dream come true.”
The mission of the Institute is, as its enabling legislation states, “to provide a milieu for established and aspiring writers to work together to increase the freedom of the artistic imagination.”
As Rebecca Wolff, poet and editor of Fence, noted, “It is my great joy to bring Fence into its second life with marshaled resources, unimpeded energies, and providence regained." And of allying the project with the University at Albany, she added, “it is to this temple of learning that Fence happily plights its troth. A love-match: Fence is proud to join forces with the New York State Writers Institute, founded by William Kennedy and directed by Donald Faulkner, whose mission statement is aligned with our own.”
Wolff is as well a teacher and the author of two books of poems from W.W.Norton: Manderley and Figment. She is also winner of the Barnard Prize.
Fence has, across nine years of publication, been noted for its unprecedented and deliberate mixture of “new writing” with what can best be called mainstream work. Fence has sought, through this juxtaposition, to demonstrate to the larger reading public the validity of writing that is original, fully imagined, and dynamic in its treatment of language and form.
Fence Books, the publishing arm of the magazine, has won lauds and praises for its work, including its book design, and its Modern Poets Series. Fence oversees the award of a number of prizes, including the Alberta Prize and the Motherwell Prize.
Among the highly regarded list of writers published in Fence are John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich, Robert Coover, Jorie Graham, Fanny Howe, Paul Muldoon, Heather McHugh, Rick Moody, Charles Bernstein, C. D. Wright, Harry Mathews, Anne Carson and Annie Dillard. Mathews, Carson, and Dillard are on the magazine’s Board of Directors, as are novelist Peter Straub; poet Marjorie Welish; former New Yorker magazine editor Jonathan Galassi; and novelist Jonathan Lethem, the publication’s first fiction editor. Lethem was quoted as saying, “I’m proud to have been involved with Fence from its very beginning, and couldn’t wish for a better development in its already illustrious career.”
Current Fence fiction editor, Institute Fellow, and University at Albany faculty member, Lynne Tillman, summed up the joining of the organizations neatly in saying, “The joining of Fence and the Institute is "a marriage of true minds," a literary love of shared intention and hope.”
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Saturday, March 10, 2007
So much going on again. Watch for a major announcement next week.
The Institute inaugurated its screening room in a private gathering with the only film worth watching again and again: Singin the the Rain.
a response from Hamid Dabashi's recent visit:
I want to extend my personal gratitude to the Writers Institute for inviting Hamid Dabashi to give a seminar and film discussion on Friday, March 2. Dabashi's deeply informed perspective on current politics, and on the subtle interventions in political life of his own writing and of all the arts, is more than welcome. Since the current debate over U.S. relations with Iran can leave American Iranians and Iranophiles feeling under siege, the humane discourse of a speaker like Hamid Dabashi is more than welcome. For myself and others, including the many Iranians in the audience, Dabashi's wise remarks were particularly heartening at this critical moment.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
February 22 2007
Events at the Institute are happening just too darn quickly to keep up with these days, especially when one’s health is constantly in question. But the snow is beautiful, carefully everywhere descending as I write.
In the past month the Institute has undergone a sea change. We are about to acquire in partnership a major literary magazine, and we will make three major writing hires. We have just opened a new screening room and small lecture hall, and we are undergoing a major reorganization of our archives, much of which will soon be on an enhanced version of the Institute website. It will allow us to post streaming audio and video samples of what is now one of the most extensive archives of contemporary writers in the country.
Reviews of the recent Institute events will be posted here soon, but in the meanwhile, anticipate great things. We owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who helped make possible this exciting next step in the Institute’s growth.