Windham-Campbell Literary Festival returns with in-person events

The festival returns to campus Sept. 19–22 with special events to mark its 10th anniversary, including a keynote by former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey.
S. Bridgforth, T. Dangarembga, E. Iduma, M. Jefferson, Z. Kunial, W. May, S. Gloria Ndlovu, and W. Pinnock

Top row, left to right, Sharon Bridgforth, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Emmanuel Iduma, Margo Jefferson; second row, Zaffar Kunial, Wong May, Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu, and Winsome Pinnock.

The Windham-Campbell Prizes’ annual literary festival returns to campus Sept. 19 to Sept. 22 with a special lineup of events to mark its 10th anniversary, including a keynote address by former United States Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey.

The eight recipients of the 2022 prizes and several past recipients will visit campus during the festival to share their work, join discussions on a range of subjects, and celebrate reading and the written word with the local community.

The full schedule of talks, discussions, and readings is available on the Windham-Campbell Prizes website. All events are free and open to the public.

There is no better way to commemorate 10 extraordinary years of the prizes and the literary achievement of each recipient than to be coming together for the first in-person festival since 2019,” said Michael Kelleher, director of the Windham-Campbell Prizes. “We are proud to welcome the 2022 class along with many prize recipients from previous years to Yale this fall to celebrate their talent.”

The 2022 prize recipients, announced on March 29, are in fiction, Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe) and Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu (Zimbabwe); in nonfiction, Margo Jefferson (United States) and Emmanuel Iduma (Nigeria); in drama, Winsome Pinnock (United Kingdom) and Sharon Bridgforth (United States); and in poetry, Wong May (Ireland/Singapore/China) and Zaffar Kunial (United Kingdom).

Administered by Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the prizes recognize literary achievement or promise across four categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. First awarded in 2013, they are conferred annually to eight authors writing in English anywhere in the world. Each recipient receives $165,000 to support their work.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival was cancelled in 2020 and transformed into an online salon last year.

On Monday Sept. 19 at 5 p.m., Yale President Peter Salovey will confer the awards at a prize ceremony in the Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Lecture Hall at the Yale University Art Gallery. Trethewey, who served consecutive terms as the country’s poet laureate in 2012 and 2013, will deliver a keynote lecture based on the theme “Why I Write.” The event will be livestreamed.

The festival kicks off at 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning under a tent at Cross Campus with a “Daily Wake Up” session featuring free coffee and treats, book and tote bag giveaways, and a short reading by playwright and 2020 prize recipient Aleshea Harris. Daily Wake Up sessions on Wednesday and Thursday will include readings by poet and 2019 recipient Ishion Hutchinson and poet and 2020 recipient Jonah Mixon-Webster.

The Tuesday events will include a career-spanning conversation between novelist and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga and Courtney J. Martin, the Paul Mellon director of the Yale Center for British Art, on the impact of the prize recipient’s novels on women’s writing in Africa and across the globe; a choral performance of “Intimate Strangers,” a collaboration between Portuguese vocalist-composer Sara Serpa and Nigerian writer Emmanuel Iduma, drawing inspiration from Iduma’s book, “A Stranger’s Pose;” and an intimate examination of poet Langston Hughes’ papers, housed at the Beinecke Library, with writer Sharon Bridgforth.

Highlights on Wednesday will include a discussion by critic Margo Jefferson on how personal narrative is an essential element of the critical, and vice versa; a conversation on narratives surrounding “children of migrations,” featuring Yale scholar Alicia Schmidt Camacho, poet Zaffar Kunial, and playwrights Winsome Pinnock and Sharon Bridgforth; and Mixon-Webster will speak with Lisa Monroe, project manager for Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center, to consider the history of enslavement in the United States and how the past haunts the present.

Thursday’s events include a discussion between Pinnock and playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, a 2016 prize recipient, on the legacy and history of J.M.W. Turner’s painting “The Slave Ship,” which sits at the heart of Pinnock’s most recent play; a discussion by filmmaker and author Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu on the long history of artists covering Zimbabwean music, and on musician Louis Armstrong’s tours through the African continent in the 1950s and 1960s; and a conversation between Iduma and Cajetan Iheka, professor of English at Yale, centered on the prize recipient’s extensive knowledge of African photography.

In a welcome return to tradition, the 2022 prize recipients each will deliver short readings of their work in the festival’s closing event, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Yale University Art Gallery’s lecture hall.

Audience members at all events must be prepared to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Masks will be required at most indoor events.

For a complete calendar of events, visit the Windham-Campbell Prize’s website.

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