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Words Poised to Take Flight at ‘Migrations,’ ODU’s 36th Annual Literary Festival

By Jon Cawley

The 36th annual Old Dominion University Literary Festival ponders a theme of "Migrations: Words in Motion." Fittingly, this year's schedule, which runs Oct. 7-11, features a wide-ranging roster of literary kingfish.

From a slate of nationally recognized authors - that includes ODU's own Blake Bailey and Luisa Igloria - to a South African photographer who documented Nelson Mandela's life for 25 years, the festival has drawn a wide-ranging cast to impress even the most discerning literary palate.

Highly regarded poet and ODU professor Tim Seibles, who organized the event along with English department colleague Mike Pearson, said he his most excited about the "sheer variety of voices" represented in the 2013 literary festival.

"Anyone who believes life is worthy of passionate attention cannot go wrong with any of these readings," Seibles said. "Most people don't usually associate scientific writings with literature, but a science buff will find Charles Mann's President's Lecture both engaging and surprising. Also, many people are nervous about poetry, but I feel certain that the poets in this year's literary fest are both entertaining and readily understood."

On Oct. 8, the ODU President's Lecture Series will present Charles C. Mann's discussion of "1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created." Mann is the author of New York Times bestseller "1493" and the earlier "1491," which won the U.S. National Academy of Sciences' Keck Award. He has covered the intersection of science, technology and commerce for publications that include: The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, National Geographic the Atlantic Monthly and Wired. The 7:30 p.m. lecture will be at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Another of the marquee events associated with the nearly weeklong festival is a campus visit by representatives of the South African community-activist group Grandmothers Against AIDS and Poverty (GAPA) and journalists Eric Miller and Jo-Anne Smetherham, who documented the group's struggles against an HIV/AIDS pandemic that has worn bare the country's social fabric. Read more about their story at the News @ ODU website.

Miller's images from the book "The Nevergiveups" will be on display at the Goode Theatre Oct. 7-11 and a collection of his never before publicly exhibited photos of Nelson Mandela will be shown at Borjo Coffeehouse on Monarch Way from Oct. 3-11. Miller and Smetherham will discuss the book project - written in partnership with Jennifer Fish, an ODU professor of gender studies and chair of the women's studies department - during a 7:30 p.m. lecture Oct. 9 at the Diehn Center for the Performing Arts.

Other festival highlights include:

  • Madison Smartt Bell will speak at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 7 in Chandler Recital Hall of the Diehn Center for the Performing Arts. Bell is the author of 13 novels and two collections of short stories. His book "Doctor Sleep" was adapted as a film, "Close Your Eyes."
  • David Mura, a third-generation Japanese American, is a poet, writer, critic and performance artist who has written two memoirs, including "Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei," which was listed as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1991. Mura will give an author's talk at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10 in Chandler Recital Hall of the Diehn Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Geoff Dyer, author of "Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It" and other award-winning works, will speak at 8 p.m. Oct. 11 in Chandler Recital Hall of the Diehn Center for the Performing Arts.

For a full roster of participating authors and additional event information, visit www.lib.odu.edu/litfest/36th or call the English department's Creative Writing Program office at 683-3929.

Garage parking is free for all festival events. Please do not park in spaces marked "Reserved." Directions are available on the ODU website.

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