FRONTMATTER

Breaking Genre Borders with Julianna Baggot

Julianna Baggot is "intense." The Faculty Director of VCFA's MFA in Writing & Publishing, she proudly wears that badge, and brings that sort of energy to our Forms class. Sharp, funny, and never one to hold back, what she does best with the cadre of young writers assembled before her is to stress the importance of showing up: in writing, "no one cares if you don't." Sit down, write, go to bed, wake up, do it again. For Baggot, it's worked—25 times over.  In this interview with MFA candidate Breanne…

Our Fourth Reading: Grounded In Place With Sean Prentiss, Jessica Hendry-Nelson

The best art is grounded somewhere. We are all tied to memories of where we grow up, where we settle down, where we spend time in between. At our fourth reading, faculty members Sean Prentiss and Jessica Hendry-Nelson both talked about the value of place and how they ground their work in very precise settings from rural Pennsylvania to northern Vermont. First up: Prentiss, Faculty in nonfiction, an environmental writer, and the author of Finding Abbey: A Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden…

VCFA Alumnus Tyler Friend Discusses Launching "Francis House," A Literary Journal

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Poet and photographer Tyler Friend is a self-described "apricot/human hybrid," a characteristically pronoun-averse writer, and someone who's eager to take on new poetic forms. Friend's 2014 chapbook, ampersonate was published by Choose The Sword Press (motto: "read a fuckin' book"), which they describe as a "quasi-autobiography...a collection of insecurities...a topography of my heart." After graduating from the MFA in Writing & Publishing program in spring of 2017, Friend moved back to…

Poet and Professor Ruben Quesada Talks To Us About Journals, Translating Cernuda, And Neck Tattoos

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On the right side of his neck, just below his ear, poet and professor Ruben Quesada has a tattoo of the Chinese character 晨, which he tells me means, “early light.” Quesada was born on an early morning in a late summer day in August. “I feel that idea of light embodies who I am and my personality,” he said. Quesada (MFA, PhD) grew up in the Los Angeles area. His mother emigrated from Costa Rica just before he was born. Next door was a Chinese family that had come from Nicaragua, and…

An Evening With Ruben Quesada

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Visiting poet Ruben Quesada was the star of our third reading, a solo act. He read three poems from his upcoming and still-untitled collection, though they aren't entirely poems, per se: they are disparate ideas split up into numbered sections that convey themes of religion, desire, and surviving the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. When the collection goes to print next year, these poems will be arranged into squares: devoid of punctuation, interspersed by translations of Luis Cernuda. Quesada…

Hula-Hooping While Reading Is 2017's Hot New Workout Fad

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Multitasking, that's what it is, really—says Cammie Finch, an avid combination reader and hula-hooper, usually both at the same time. A first-year student at VCFA's MFA in Writing & Publishing program, she has been frequently sighted outside of the dorms, holding up a (lightweight) book and simultaneously hooping it up. It might seem silly, sure, but there's nothing to it: once you get moving, the motion takes up almost no effort or concentration—which leaves the sunshine-warmed hooper…

VCFA's Second Reading: Trinie Dalton, Sherwin Bitsui

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We kept our second reading of the year short, and to the point: poet Sherwin Bitsui, reading from his current work as well as a preview of his third book of poetry, joined onstage our very own Trinie Dalton, Faculty in the MFA in Writing & Publishing program. "I've kinda been in a mood lately," said Trinie, just as she launched into two pieces, one entitled "Women's Art Prison," a dark and fragile story of women forbidden from making art, who secretly create in prison. Sherwin, visiting…

Sherman Bitsui coming to VCFA

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Sherwin Bitsui’s Flood Song, the poet’s second book, is a hike through the desert at sunset when you don’t know where you’re going. It is equal parts disorienting, beautiful, and full of misdirection: surreal and bordering on the nonsensical, but with enough glimmers of the familiar to bring you back. You follow Bitsui to “a cornfield at the bottom of a sandstone canyon,” into the past, “a blurry splotch of red crosshatched with neon light,” while “black ants drift through the throats…

Lewis "Buddy" Nordan, "Owls"

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Lewis Nordan, whose nickname was “Buddy,” stood in the same Southern Gothic cathedral as Faulkner and O’Connor. Over the course of his life he wrote four novels, three short story collections, and one “fictional memoir” before his death in 2012. Nordan played with expectations in unique ways: his uniqueness was magical realism by way of small-town Mississippi, deep in the Delta, his native home. Lyrical tales of singing llamas and ghosts and a dead boy’s sentient eyeball—a reference…

The Dinner Club

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Spend your first few weeks wandering around a dorm, and eventually a dinner party will break out. Says W&P student Lauren Lang (posting to the program's Facebook page): “having a meal at a table is much better with friends when being away from family.” Five W&P students, gathering in the kitchen to concoct various meals (rice, squash, steamed vegetables and shrimp, pasta, a single egg), before sitting down to take stock of what brought them together: it's a thing of beauty. We writers…