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Summer Readings: Opportunities to Hear Writers Are Like Leaves on the Trees

  • Poet Vievee Francis recently joined the English Department at Dartmouth College. She was photographed in Sanborn Hall on May 17, 2017 in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Jennifer Hauck

  • Amy Huyffer of Strafford Organic Creamery separates eggs to make ice cream at the farm and creamery on Jan. 23, 2017 in Strafford, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

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    Novelist and essayist Alexander Chee, an associate professor in the English and Creative Writing Department at Dartmouth College, received the Paul Engle Prize in August, 2017. The prize is awarded to an individual who "represents a pioneering spirit in the world of literature through writing, editing, publishing, or teaching, and whose active participation in the larger issues of the day has contributed to the betterment of the world through the literary arts," according to the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature website. Chee was photographed in Dartmouth College's Sanborn Hall in Hanover, N.H., Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/29/2018 12:04:59 AM
Modified: 6/29/2018 12:06:10 AM

Jim Schley will devote much of his August to organizing and moderating the weekly Town House Forum series of author readings in Strafford.

His July will furnish him with plenty of examples to emulate: Schley plans to listen to as many readings around the Upper Valley and the Twin States as his other obligations will permit. The Strafford writer and editor revels in this time of year.

“I have absolutely no interest in sports,” Schley said with a laugh this week. “What I love to do is go to readings, especially in the summer. I’ll drive an hour, and I’ve gone farther for a good one. These days a literary reading can be akin to a session of stand-up or a concert. I love to go to the Canaan Meetinghouse. … And I’m really wild about the Bookstock Festival.”

Thanks in part to Schley’s networking with Phil Pochoda, who convenes the Canaan readings, and other organizers, devotees of literature needn’t worry, mostly, about readings happening at the same time. The lone exception is Aug. 2, when poet Lloyd Schwartz and novelist Joan Silber read in Canaan while poets Vievee Francis and Matthew Olzmann kick off the Strafford series.

Pochoda, a retired editor who lives in Lyme, returns the favor of Schley’s visits when he can.

“In Strafford they tend to have a real purpose and a design to each get-together, with the moderated discussions after the readings, so I enjoy going for the change of pace when I can,” Pochoda said. “And I love the space. Jim and his friends put on a lovely program year after year, an interesting mix.”

The mix at the Bookstock literary festival, over the final weekend of July in Woodstock, includes former poet laureate Robert Pinsky, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Russo and New Hampshire-based animal-behavior writer Elizabeth Marshall Thomas.

Here are the reading events and series either underway and soon to come:

Canaan Meetinghouse

The series, held at the historic building on Canaan Street north of town on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., opens on July 12 with biographer Peter Manseau reading and talking about his book The Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography and the Man Who Captured Lincoln’s Ghost. Also, novelist Ivy Pochoda, Phil’s daughter, shares excerpts from Wonder Valley, named one of the best books of 2017 by National Public Radio and The Los Angeles Times.

Subsequent readings:

July 19 — Former New York Times foreign correspondent and bureau chief Christopher Wren, who lives in Thetford, examines the history of his adopted Vermont with a reading from Those Turbulent Sons of Freedom: Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys and the American Revolution. And Lauren Groff, a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction for her novel Fates and Furies, reads from Florida, her new collection of short stories.

July 26 — Historian Howard Mansfield, aka husband of nature journalist Sy Montgomery, commutes from Hancock, N.H., to share pieces of his Summer Over Autumn: A Small Book of Small-Town Life, and Vermont-based fiction writer Robin MacArthur reads from her recent Heart Spring Mountain.

Aug. 2 — The series ends with Lloyd Schwartz, best known to National Public Radio listeners for his commentaries about classical music on Fresh Air, reading poems from his collection Little Kisses; and with Joan Silber doling out doses of Improvement, the novel for which she won the 2017 National Book Circle Critics Award for fiction and the 2018 PEN/Faulkner Award. She is the author of six previous highly acclaimed books of fiction.

Joan Hutton Landis Series

This series, which takes place on alternate Sundays at BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vt., has already begun. Its third installment, on July 15, features Hanover poet Florence Fogelin and short-story writer Tracy Winn, who lives and writes in greater Boston. Fogelin is scheduled to read from her first published collection, 2015’s Once It Stops.

July 29 — Jensen Beach reads from her short-story collection Swallowed by the Cold, set in a Swedish village on the Baltic Sea, while Bianca Stone, granddaughter of renowned poet Ruth Stone, reads poems from her 2018 collection The Mobius Strip Club of Grief.

Aug. 19 — Novelist Rebecca Godwin (Private Parts, Keeper of the House) and poet/Dartmouth writing professor Cynthia Huntington appear.

Sept. 2 — Margi Rogal (Cafe on Vine), Woon-Ping Chin (Vermont Nights: New and Selected Poems) and Carolie Parker (Mirage Industry) read from their poetry.

Poetry & Pie

The Upper Valley-based blog Literary North hosts its second annual readings on July 21 at 2:30 p.m., at Norwich’s Sweetland Farm. This year’s event features poets Didi Jackson, Julia Shipley and Ocean Vuong.

After the readings, there will be an open mic for aspiring poets to share their original work. Taylor Mardis Katz will write custom poems, for fees of $10 to $25. And as the event’s title suggests, there will be pie. With limited seating, Literary North advises RSVP’ing by visiting literarynorth.com. Admission is $6 to $10.

Bookstock Literary Festival

Bring your walking shoes, or at least really comfortable sandals, to Woodstock village between July 27 and 29, when a dizzying array of poets, novelists, short-story writers and nonfiction authors will be reading at venues around Woodstock village. Also, try to make up your mind ahead of time what to attend, because many of the writers’ readings bump up against each other.

The busiest day, as usual, is the middle one, Saturday the 28th. Headlining the fiction writers is Richard Russo, whose parade of novels, mostly focused on the inner lives and foibles of people in working-class communities that have seen better days, includes Bridge of Sighs and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls.

Vermont-based mystery novelist Archer Mayor, meanwhile, will read from the next in his series of novels about detective Joe Gunther.

The lineup of nonfiction writers includes Rutland-based journalist Yvonne Daley, who will read from Going Up the Country, an equal-parts comprehensive and personal examination of how the counter-culture of the 1960s and 1970s changed Vermont. Also, Woodstock’s William Boardman will share stories from Woodstock Country School: A History of Institutional Denial, which he assembled about his alma mater over a period of more than 30 years, and novelist and Dartmouth creative-writing professor Alexander Chee will read from his first collection of critical essays, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel.

And in addition to a conventional reading of his poetry during the day on July 28, former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky will perform some of his verse with a trio of jazz musicians that night at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre. Woodstock poet Partridge Boswell and his own trio will open the PoemJazz gathering at 7:30.

Scheduling is still underway for which writers will read when and where. Closer to the event, visit bookstockvt.org.

Town HouseForum, Strafford

On Aug. 2, poets Vievee Francis and Matthew Olzmann open the series, which takes place on Thursday nights at 7. Francis, who teaches creative writing at Dartmouth, won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award of $100,000 in 2017 for her book Forest Primeval. The collection, which takes its title from the first line in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie, explores what Valley News staff writer EmmaJean Holley described in a 2017 profile of the poet as “her love-versus-fear of what nature, but also humankind, can do.”

Also scheduled to step to the Strafford podium are:

Aug. 9 — Farmers Amy Huyffer of Strafford Creamery and Shannon Varley of Strafford Village Farm talk about agriculture in the new economy.

Aug. 16 — Activists/journalists Bill McKibben and Sue Halpern talk about their most recent fictional endeavors.

Aug. 23 — An eclectic lineup features King Arthur Flour head baker Martin Philip, who’s the author of a memoir/cookbook Breaking Bread, and graphic novelist James Sturm, co-founder of the Center for Cartoon Studies).

Cry Freedom

Over the coming week and a half, libraries around Vermont, including some in the Upper Valley, are inviting residents to read from abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech about the irony of expecting former slaves to celebrate Independence Day.

Sponsored by the Vermont Humanities Council, the readings begin this afternoon at 5 on the green in Quechee. Subsequent local readings follow:

Sunday — Tunbridge Public Library, 6:30 p.m.

Monday — Kimball Public Library in Randolph, noon; Norwich Congregational Church, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday — Norman Williams Public Library, Woodstock, 4 p.m.

July 8 — Unitarian Church of Springfield, 1:30 p.m.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.




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