Alice James Books, an affiliate of the University of Maine at Farmington, has been making plenty of news since the last departmental newsletter, much of it involving Brian Turner’s Here, Bullet, a book of poems that presents a first person account of Turner’s experiences as a soldier in the Iraq war. Turner read from the book at UMF’s Merrill Hall on December 1. April Ossman also reports that Here, Bullet has been awarded the Maine Literary Award in poetry and is a finalist for the Northern California Book Award in poetry. In other Alice James news, David Revell’s Pennyweight Window: New and Selected Poems, has been named a Los Angeles Times Book Award in Poetry finalist, and Alice James Press cofounder and author Betsy Sholl (Rooms Overhead, Appalachian Winter, Changing Faces) has been named Poet Laureate of Maine.
Apropos, which publishes UMF students’ academic papers in humanities, arts, social sciences, and honors courses, has recently been reborn after a hiatus. Jennie Ferris (Elementary Education) is the new editor, assisted by the journal’s editorial board, which is made up of both faculty and students, including professors Michael Burke and Scott Erb, and students Evan Gleason (English) and Kristen Jacques. Apropos is currently encouraging students to submit essay from 2005–2006 classes. These papers will be juried for inclusion in the publication after the submission deadline of May 10, 2006 by the Editorial Review Board, and cash prizes will be provided for the best three papers, as follows: first place, $100; second place, $75; third place, $50. Papers should be sent by electronic attachment to Jennie Ferris or Missy Danforth. Questions regarding submissions, the editorial internship, or other related details, should contact Jennie Ferris, the current editorial intern.
Eric Brown’s essay “The McDonaldizing of Macbeth: Shakespeare, Class, and Scotland, PA” has been accepted for the April 2006 issue of Literature Film Quarterly 34.2. Another essay, “Shakespeare’s Anxious Epistemology: Love’s Labor’s Lost and Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus” (originally published in Texas Studies in Literature and Language), will be reprinted in Shakespearean Criticism 98, ed. Michelle Lee (Detroit: Gale Group, forthcoming July 2006). A book chapter, “Popularizing Pandaemonium: Milton and the Horror Film,” will appear in Milton and Popular Culture, ed. Gregory Semenza and Laura Knoppers (Palgrave-Macmillan) in June 2006.
Several Humanities Department faculty were recently awarded promotion/tenure for 2006–2007: Eric Brown, Christiane Donahue, and Michael Johnson were awarded tenure by the Board of Trustees and will be promoted to associate professor. Gretchen Legler and Jennifer Reid have been promoted to professor.
BFA student Heather Campbell was accepted in to the MFA program in poetry at the University of New Mexico.
Michael Burke reports that UMF will host a 2006 ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and Environment) Summer Symposium on the topic of Maine’s Place in the Environmental Imagination over the weekend of June 2–4. For more information and a detailed call for papers, please see the conference’s official Web site or contact Michael Burke.
Sylvie Charron, professor of French, traveled to Le Mans and Angers February 15–22 to discuss our partnership with the two French universities, prepare our Semester in France program for next year, recruit French assistants for next year, create a new partnership with the Beaux Arts in Le Mans, increase exchanges between our education program and the IUFM (Teacher’s college), and to prepare for a UMS delegation trip in May through the project Maine-France under the sponsorship of Chancellor Westphall.
Jonathan Cohen reports that a paper entitled “Some Jewish Reflections on Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration” has been accepted for publication in the journal Crosscurrents. The paper includes, besides a reading of Locke’s Letter (1685), a reading of Moses Mendelssohn’s response to Locke in Jerusalem (1783), as well as some thoughts about how these issues stand today in the US, Israel, and elsewhere.
Michael Delaney (English and Creative Writing) had a fiction piece accepted by Words and Images, a USM journal.
Christiane Donhaue is a visiting professor at University of Lille for one month during Spring 2006.
Levi Galloway (English) is one of several students in the Humanities with an interest in theater. He writes: “I began my theatrical experience by hunting down Theatre UMF and by acquiring a job as a scenic technician. I had little experience in theatre before this, but have always had a burning interest. Within the department I was greeted by upperclassmen and professors whom I found to be invaluable sources of boundary pushing experience. Since then I have acted in four plays (Marvin’s Room, Enchanted April, House of Blue Leaves, and Edith Stein) and have been involved technically in every show. I am currently a number of Alpha Psi Omega (the theatre fraternity), the president of TUMF, the shop foreman, technical director, actor, and I’m trying my hand at directing for the one act festival.”
In December, the Humanities Department sponsored the first in a series of Literary Forums, which involve presentations of papers written by students in UMF English courses. The participating students and the titles of their presentations were: Jennie Ferris, “The Power of Print: The Value of Written Language Over Spoken Language in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey,” Allie Nixon (Elementary Education), “Emma on the Silver Screen: A Closer Look at Hollywood’s Interpretation of Jane Austen’s Novel,” and Douglas Pierce (English), “The Pit and the Cave in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.” The presenters were introduced by Sean Thomas (Creative Writing and English).
Kristen Jacques has been accepted for graduate study at both Pratt Institute and Simmons College for Library and Information Sciences.
Michael Johnson has been working with Bess Welden, executive and artistic director of the Maine Jewish Film Festival in Portland, to initiate an ongoing relationship between UMF and this nationally recognized festival. We plan each year to screen one of the films from the festival on the Farmington campus. This year, we offered a screening of the documentary Lover Other.
April Ossmann’s first collection of poems has been accepted for publication (Spring 2008) by Four Way Books.
BFA student Kate Russell was accepted into the MFA program in fiction at the University of Indiana.
Valerie Suffron, BFA grad, is attending the MFA program in fiction at the University of Ohio.
Devon Sprague, BFA grad, is attending the Stonecoast MFA program in fiction, and is a staff assistant for the literary journal Postroad.
Sean Thomas will be serving next year in the Peace Corps in Madagascar. Currently he directs the education programs at the county jail (his Creative Writing apprenticeship there turned into a job).
My journey to the land of the poetry blockbuster (two words that normally seem to carry a negative magnetic charge) began in January 2005 on the floor of my living room, when, surrounded by Beatrice Hawley Award finalist manuscripts and completely unsuspecting, I picked up Brian Turner’s Here, Bullet, began to read—and was promptly knocked back on my heels, awed by the power and beauty of the poems, appalled by the scenes they described and dumbstruck by the realization of what publishing them might do for citizens and soldiers, for the author, for Alice James Books, and for poetry.
As civilians, many of us wonder what it’s really like “over there,” and struggle for a sense of what our soldiers and Iraqi citizens experience on a daily basis and how they feel about it. Although there are now a number of prose books by Iraq War veterans, we have over the nearly three years of the war heard comparatively little directly from our soldiers, and even less that gives us a visceral sense of the reality on the ground. Comments from both civilians and soldiers tell us that Turner’s book does that.
As far as I know, Here, Bullet is the first and so far only published book of poems on the Iraq War by a veteran, and nearly all the poems were written in the field. The poems are highly accomplished but accessible, and the subject both topical and controversial. Brian is articulate, witty and personable, and a powerful reader of poetry. All of this combined, as I was to learn, to create a kind of perfect (publicity) storm. Though there probably have been some, I can’t remember another poetry title that became a major media news event in this way.
Here, Bullet has been reviewed or featured in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Globe and Mail (Canada’s premier newspaper), the Daily Mail (a British newspaper), Stars & Stripes (US military newspaper), Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and in newspapers across the country, including several in Maine.
Brian has been interviewed on public radio in Maine, New York, North Carolina and on NPR’s Morning Edition; and on “207” (WCSH6) and ABC News Now, The Mix (I attended the interview taping with Brian at ABC World News Tonight studios in New York and was allowed to sit backstage and observe). He continues to be invited to read and speak at venues nationwide, including such high-profile events as the Dodge Poetry Festival. As poetry publishers, generally any one example of such media attention has us positively hopping with excitement, so perhaps you can imagine how surreal and how heady this amount of attention has been!
Here, Bullet has been adopted by high schools, universities, the US Air Force Academy, US Military Academy at West Point—and promoted by Veterans for Peace and like organizations. From the beginning, Brian (and we) hoped that his book would contribute to the debate about the war in Iraq, that people with opinions across the political spectrum would find his work worth discussing both for its artistry and for what it witnesses, and that seems to be happening in a big way. We couldn’t be more pleased about that and about the continuing—still increasing—media attention being paid to the book. It is my hope that the extraordinary attention for this particular poetry title will woo a broader audience for poetry in general—bringing more readers to our other excellent titles and those of other presses as well, that poetry “evangelists” everywhere will celebrate this event. I know I am.
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