NEA Literature Fellows Take Center Stage

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Paul Auster, Mona Simpson, and Alberto Ríos are among the presenters at the National Book Festival's Poetry & Prose Pavilion

Washington, D.C. – A new location, new conversations, and a new poetry slam are in the lineup for this year’s Poetry & Prose Pavilion at the National Book Festival. For the first time, the Poetry & Prose Pavilion will host two panel discussions about the art of translation and creative nonfiction, both art forms that receive NEA support through NEA literature fellowships. In the translation panel, author-translator Paul Auster and Natasha Wimmer (Roberto Bolaño's translator) will talk about what it takes to translate a great work of literature from another language into English. Later, creative nonfiction writers Paisley Rekdal and Eula Biss will look at the challenges of this genre. Newly minted NEA Literature Director Amy Stolls will moderate both panels. 

Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry & Prose Pavilion is part of the Library of Congress’s 14th annual literary festival, which takes place on Saturday, August 30, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place, NW, in Washington, DC. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the National Book Festival Information Line at 888-714-4696 or visit the National Book Festival website.

Nine out of ten of the 2014 Poetry & Prose Pavilion writers received NEA Literature Fellowships early in their careers. This year’s writers are Natasha Wimmer (translator of Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño's 2666), Paul Auster (Report from the Interior), Billy Collins (Aimless Love), Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation), Paisley Rekdal (Intimate: An American Family Photo Album), Elizabeth McCracken (Thunderstruck and Other Stories), Alicia Ostriker (The Old Woman, the Tulip and the Dog), Richard Rodriguez (Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography), Alberto Ríos (The Curtain of Trees), and Mona Simpson (Casebook).

Poetry bookends this year’s pavilion activities beginning with a recitation from the three teen 2014 Poetry Out Loud champions. National Champion and Tennessee State Champion Anita Norman, second place winner and Ohio State Champion Lake Wilburn, and third place winner and New Jersey Champion Natasha Vargas will recite poems that landed them top spots at this national competition, celebrating its tenth anniversary in the 2014-2015 school year.

The pavilion activities end with “Page [Hearts] Stage,” the first-ever poetry slam at the festival. Champion delegates from the DC Youth Slam Team and the Louder Than a Bomb DMV will compete to be named the city’s top youth slammer, by performing their own works about books and reading. This event is a collaboration with the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the poetry organization Split This Rock. Slam judges include national and international slam champion Gayle Danley, Born Confused author Tanuja Desai Hidier, and Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin. Beltway Grand Slam champion Elizabeth Acevedo will be the evening’s emcee.

Schedule of events for the NEA Poetry & Prose Pavilion:

10:00 - 10:45 a.m.                           Poetry Out Loud

10:55 - 11:40 a.m.                           Books in Translation Panel, with:

                                                          -Natasha Wimmer, NEA Literature Fellowship for Translation, 2007

                                                          -Paul Auster, NEA Creative Writing Fellow, 1979, 1985

11:50 a.m. - 12:35 p.m.                   Billy Collins, NEA Creative Writing Fellow, 1988

12:45 - 1:30 p.m.                             Creative Nonfiction Panel, with:

                                                           -Eula Biss, NEA Creative Writing Fellow, 2012

                                                           -Paisley Rekdal, NEA Creative Writing Fellow, 2003

1:40 - 2:25 p.m.                               Elizabeth McCracken, NEA Creative Writing Fellow, 1992

2:35 - 3:20 p.m.                               Alicia Ostriker, NEA Creative Writing Fellow, 1976

3:30 - 4:15 p.m.                               Richard Rodriguez

4:25 - 5:10 p.m.                               Alberto Ríos NEA Creative Writing Fellow, 1979

5:20 - 6:00 p.m.                               Mona Simpson, NEA Creative Writing Fellow, 1986

6:00 - 7:30 p.m.                               DC Youth Poetry Slam

About NEA Literature Fellowships

NEA Literature Fellowships represent the NEA’s most direct investment in American creativity. Since 1968, the NEA has awarded more than $46 million to more than 3,000 writers and translators, including many of the most acclaimed writers of contemporary American literature. Literature fellowships are highly competitive, and the prose and poetry fellowships are selected through an anonymous, panel-review process for which the sole criterion for review is artistic excellence. These fellowships have resulted in more than 2,400 books, including many of the most acclaimed novels of contemporary American literature: Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex, Oscar Hijuelos's The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Alice Walker's The Color Purple, William Kennedy's Ironweed, and Bobbie Ann Mason's In Country.

The NEA offers other grants and programs to support U.S. writers and connect them with communities. These include NEA grants to literary journals and presses, literary centers, reading series, festivals, writers-in-the-schools programs, libraries, and other literary organizations. Special NEA initiatives such as The Big Read and Poetry Out Loud offer model literary programs of artistic excellence and national reach. Coming out August 12, The Art of Empathy: Celebrating Literature in Translation brings together essays on the challenges and rewards of literary translation and bringing new voices to American audiences; Natasha Wimmer is among the contributors, and free copies of the book will be available at the Poetry & Prose Pavilion. 

About the Library of Congress and the National Book Festival

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may be accessed through its website, www.loc.gov. More information about the National Book Festival can be found at www.loc.gov/bookfest/.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $5 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at arts.gov.

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