Category Archives: Press

News about student/alumni/faculty/program publication, recognition, accomplishments, failures.

Publication

A bit belated, but notice nonetheless:

Evan Hanczor’s poem “A Request” was published in the Winter 2008/2009 edition of the New Orleans Review.

*Please feel free to notify the CW Blog about any past or forthcoming publications or prizes.

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Joan Didion, Tonight, 7PM: McAlister Auditorium

This evening, April 6, Joan Didion will speak at Tulane University in McAlister Auditorium at 7pm. Her visit is expected to fill the venue and it’s highly recommended that those interested in attending the event arrive early. The doors will open at 6:00pm.

Personally, I’m enthused for the event to finally be underway. Her visit, and the work planning and leading up to it, has been the culmination of work of the Literary Event Management class and the greater Tulane faculty for months now. Posters have been tacked up throughout the city, local high schools in the community visited, radio announcements broadcasted, and newspaper advertisements published, each of which has presented their own unique set of challenges. So, by the way, if anyone has been confused by recent, conflicting advertisements in one of the publications we chose to advertise in: The event has NOT already occurred, in fact, it’s tonight at 7PM in McAllister Auditorium on Tulane’s campus.

Let me give directions:

If you’re headed from I-10W I suggest you take the Carlton Exit. Then follow Carlton until you hit St. Charles. If you’re not familiar with the city of New Orleans, then remember: do not over shoot St. Charles and take it too far to River Rd. Just turn left as soon as you cross over Streetcar tracks, or as soon as you pass La Madeleine on your left. Next, follow St. Charles all the way to Broadway St., Turn left and drive about ½ a mile until you reach Freret St. From here you will take a right turn and drive until you reach Willow. Then turn left and find the next available parking space. McAlister Auditorium will be on your right side.

If you’re driving from I-10E please follow the directions above once you exit onto Carlton.

If you’re a local New Orleans resident, I suggest you take Claiborne as traffic could be a problem. Once you reach Broadway turn onto the street driving towards the Tulane campus. You will drive until you reach Freret and then turn left following the street to Willow where you will make a left hand turn. McAllister Auditorium will be on your right, find parking as soon as possible.

Other suggested parking spots: Tulane Library, Audubon Blvd, Calhoun St (though it may be a walk).

Didion INFO:

In 2007, Didion was honored with the National Book Foundation’s prestigious Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, joining the ranks of literary legends like Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller, Eudora Welty, Philip Roth and John Updike.

Didion’s visit is the third in Tulane’s annual Great Writer Series, sponsored by the Creative Writing Fund of the Department of English. Since its establishment in 2006, the Creative Writing Fund has enhanced literary programming both at Tulane and in New Orleans, hosting visits by Toni Morrison in 2007 and Salman Rushdie in 2008.

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In Class With Billy Collins

Thanks to the Creative Writing Fund and the Department of English at Tulane, former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins was able to visit a creative writing class before his reading in the Poet Laureate Series. It was an ideal opportunity to meet the author I’ve read much of the past few years.

I’ve always been struck by certain features that govern his pieces, such as accessibility, the musicality, and a general complacency of the voice, which I assumed Collins must have been aware of when titling a poem: “I Chop Some Parsley While Listening To Art Blakely’s Version Of ‘Three Blind Mice”. I developed a few preconceived opinions of his personality as a result and I’m not ashamed to admit that I unknowingly fell into a trap I think some critics make. That is, conflating the speaker of his poems, the persona of Billy Collins, with the author himself. It’s a juvenile assumption but in the case of Mr. Collins, and his ‘persona’, I still don’t believe the distance between the two of them is that far, but it’s significant to note nonetheless.

During the class discussion Mr. Collins handled questions on the simplicity of his poems with confidence and addressed issues surrounding the voice of his poetry. He was comfortable stating he had no intentions of developing. He explained that he has constructed the persona of his poetry throughout the span of his career and that this voice is convenient for the style of poems he writes. He feels no need to change.

What blew me away about Mr. Collins was the extent to which he has accepted this position. Despite what any critic wants to say about his work, one cannot simply deny the powerful impact he has had, and continues to exert, on the proliferation of poetry. Collins knows his audience and keeps them in mind constantly.

He has become a kind of alternative to what the public may have viewed as poetry, rebelling against the need for complexity and instead looking to meet his audience halfway. His passion for and knowledge of the tradition of poetry is indisputable and he writes from a place of joy in the act of composition, not from melancholia or a need to confuse.

On Monday evening at Tulane in McAlister Auditorium close to one thousand people attended his reading, according to a New Wave estimation. Mr. Collins own unique style and his goal to be understood by anyone whether or not they have knowledge of poetry is undoubtedly the cause of his enormous success.

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Claire Messud: If You Don’t Know Her, You Should

Claire Messud, the current Zale Writer-In-Residence at Tulane University, gave a reading this past Monday, March 9th, from her novel The Emperor’s Children. She stayed to sign books and chat after her reading, more than willing to talk with anyone and everyone, and doing so with a wide smile. On Thursday evening, Professor Paula Morris interviewed her, asking questions about her writing, and how she came to be a novelist.
Born in Toulon, France, Messud is the daughter of a French-Algerian and his Canadian wife. Her interest in her Algerian heritage is reflected in her 1999 novel The Last Life, which tells the story of 3 generations of a French-Algerian family. Told from the point of view of a teenage girl, Sagesse, the story is at times poignant and precise, imbued with distinct voices for each of its characters. As for the author’s voice, Messud speaks softly, almost timidly, and corrects herself as she talks. She writes by hand, on graph paper, with an ultrafine-tipped pen, and types portions of her manuscripts as she progresses.

One of the things that stands out about Messud’s novels is her ability to bring characters to life, whether they are lovable, despicable, or somewhere on the hazy middle ground—and Messud’s characters are almost always on that middle ground. In an earlier interview, Messud said, “I adamantly believe that characters should be interesting, rather than nice.” After reading The Emperor’s Children, and currently being in the middle of The Last Life, I and other creative writing students wanted to know how Messud crafted her characters (and how she kept them straight, as there are at least five main characters and countless supporting cast). In her interview with Paula Morris, Messud said that she chooses the point of view of her novels before she begins writing. She “gets to know” the characters more as she writes, and sometimes they end up being different people. Messud doesn’t believe that books must always have a distinct message, saying she is “resistant to a utilitarian notion of art.”

On writing and becoming a writer, Messud points out that “almost anything will get in the way of writing. And if you let it, it will take up all the room writing would occupy.” Messud would know—she balances her writing with her family, two children and a husband. She writes carefully, her precision embodied in both her chosen method of pen and paper and in her thoughtful, arching sentences. Each of her books, with the exception of her two novellas, The Hunters, has taken around four years to write.

When talking to Claire Messud, one gets the impression of an author who writes because she loves people and what they do, whether their actions are benevolent or not. There’s no question that Messud succeeds in capturing reality within her fiction. Her flair for sentence-crafting and acute knowledge of her characters make reading her work a true pleasure— one that I highly recommend to you.

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