English Professor, Christine Cozzens sent me a little glimpse of her experience here at Agnes Scott and working with the Writers’ Festival over the years!
I’ve been a professor in the Agnes Scott English department for 23 years, and so 2010 will mark my 23rd Writers’ Festival (hard to believe!). Each year I still look forward with excitement and curiosity to meet the visiting writers, see what they will be like in person, hear them read and talk about their work, and watch them interacting with students and audience members. There have been many memorable moments at past Writers’ Festivals—some inspiring, some hilarious, some just lovely memories. In this post I’ll recount some of these memories, if you don’t mind a walk back in time.
I have to start with Paul Muldoon’s visit in 2006. I am in awe of his poetry, but it’s very challenging to read and very complex. Even though I read and teach a lot about Ireland, the context for much of his work, I have to admit that I am sometimes at sea when reading his poems and have to work very hard to crack them open. I often feel I’ve failed! The language and ideas are worth working for, though. Somehow I thought Muldoon might be as difficult as his poetry, but nothing could be further from the truth. When he came to the 2006 Writers’ Festival along with novelist Percival Everett and ASC alumna poet Nathalie Anderson, he was warm, funny, loquacious, genuine, and full of praise for Agnes Scott and the Festival traditions. He made a huge effort to talk with real attentiveness to students and faculty, and to the staff who were working on the event. Everyone loved him. After getting to know him, I figured out that there was probably more playfulness in his poetry than I had at first imagined. And I want to record here in public this important and wonderful fact about the poet Paul Muldoon: while he was at the Festival, he kissed me three times!
Going back a little further, Charles Johnson, author of Middle Passage and many other works, came to the festival in 1993. I learned from his publicity materials that he had gone to my high school, Evanston Township high School in Illinois, graduating two years before I did. He gave a great reading and, given the wide readership of his most famous novel, was one of our most popular guests. But the real fun came when in a casual conversation I found out that he had been the artist and creator of a very funny and brilliant comic strip that had run in the ETHS student newspaper my freshman and sophomore years. I had loved that comic strip and had always wondered about the talented author. It was a pleasure to meet him at last and to see how his artistic talent had developed in so many ways since high school.
More glimpses of past festivals in my next post!