Windham-Campbell literary festival moves online with nine-episode salon

Streaming every Wednesday from Sept. 15 to Nov. 10., the fall literary festival’s virtual salons will showcase the creativity of the 2021 prize recipients.
Dionne Brand, Kate Briggs, Nathan Davis, Renee Gladman, Michael R. Jackson, Canisia Lubrin, Vivian Gornick, and Natalie Scenters

Top row: Dionne Brand, Kate Briggs, Nathan Alkan Davis, and Renee Gladman. Bottom row: Michael R. Jackson, Canisia Lubrin, Vivian Gornick, and Natalie Scenters-Zapico.

Yale’s Windham-Campbell Literature Prizes have transformed their flagship fall literary festival into a virtual salon series showcasing the creativity of its 2021 recipients over the course of nine episodes streaming every Wednesday from Sept. 15 to Nov. 10.

Each episode will highlight one of the eight prize recipients with the final episode featuring a keynote address by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo based on the theme “Why I Write.” One-time registration for all nine episodes is free and open to the public. The series will take its audience on an international literary tour of words, music, performance, and art.

We are thrilled to have developed a blend of video and audience interaction that will give an innovative, virtual platform to the extraordinary creativity of this year’s prize recipients,” said Michael Kelleher, director of the Windham-Campbell Prizes. “This is not just about literature with a capital ‘L’ — these writers are creative in a myriad of different ways, singing, drawing, translating and much more. In bringing this variety of creative expression to each episode, we hope to offer many different ways for a curious audience to engage with the prizes.”

The Windham-Campbell Prizes, one of the world’s most generous literary prizes, are conferred annually to eight authors writing in English anywhere in the world in four categories: nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and drama. Recipients receive $165,000.

The 2021 recipients, announced on March 22, are: in nonfiction, Vivian Gornick (United States) and Kate Briggs (United Kingdom/Netherlands); in fiction, Dionne Brand (Canada/Trinidad & Tobago) and Renee Gladman (United States); in poetry, Canisia Lubrin (St. Lucia/Canada) and Natalie Scenters-Zapico (United States); and in drama, Nathan Alan Davis (United States) and Michael R. Jackson (United States).

The salon series will blend live and on-demand content. In each episode, a recipient will share an aspect of their interests and creative life, such as the food they enjoy cooking, the way music influences their craft, and where they’ve found artistic inspiration amid the pandemic. A live Q&A session on Zoom moderated by Kelleher will follow each episode.

One of the weekly on-demand components, called “Peer-to-Peer,” will feature the prize recipients discussing the craft of writing. In the other on-demand piece, “From The Yale Collections,” recipients will reflect on objects selected from the Yale University Art Gallery, the Yale Center for British Art, the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and the Gilmore Music Library.

The salon series kicks off at noon (Eastern Time) on Sept. 15 with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and composer Michael R. Jackson performing a selection of his songs and offering an insight into his creative process. On Sept. 22, memoirist Vivian Gornick will invite the audience into her Greenwich Village apartment and discuss the importance of re-reading works. Renee Gladman will collaborate with DJ and sound artist Val Jeanty on Sept. 29 on a performance blending music, words, and the arts. On Oct. 6, poet Natalie Scenters-Zapico will reflect on the meaning of borders with her husband, José Ángel Maldonado, and discuss a postcard poetry project she has pursued to stay in touch with friends, fans, and colleagues during the pandemic.

Poet Canisia Lubrin will cook salt cod and okra on Oct. 13 while discussing food and poetry with fellow Canadian-Caribbean writer Rinaldo Walcott. (The recipe will be available for download.) On Oct. 20, playwright Nathan Alan Davis will join colleagues in the theatre arts to discuss their experiences during the pandemic, a time when stages have gone dark. It will also include a staged reading of a new work Davis wrote for the occasion. This event will connect with the course English 127 at Yale, which is reading Davis’ play, “Nat Turner in Jerusalem.” Davis will read a monologue that he originally wrote for the play but subsequently cut from the staged performance.

On Oct. 27, translator Kate Briggs will invite 2018 Windham-Campbell Prize recipient John Keene, along with Sawako Nakayasu and Johannes Göransson, to explore the art of translation, and its role in everyday life. On Nov. 3, Dionne Brand, a former poet laureate of Toronto, will take the audience on a tour of the public installations of her words and work around the Toronto area, providing an ode to a poet in the city.

The series concludes on Nov. 10 with Harjo’s keynote lecture. Harjo will adapt her address into an installment of the “Why I Write” series published by Yale University Press. The series’ fourth book, “Of Solids and Surds,” by renowned science fiction author and literary critic Samuel R. Delany, last year’s keynote speaker, publishes on Sept. 14.

Register online to join all nine episodes.

For the second consecutive year, the Windham-Campbell Prizes is partnering with the Yale Review on a special issue devoted to the prize recipients, featuring specially commissioned works by the eight writers.

The prizes were established in 2013 by novelist and memoirist Donald Windham in memory of his partner of 40 years, Sandy M. Campbell, to call attention to literary achievement and provide writers working in English with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns. The prizes are administered through Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.


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