Windham-Campbell Literary Festival to feature music, readings, food trucks, and more
The eight recipients of the 2023 Windham-Campbell Literature Prizes will come to the Yale campus next week for a four-day literary festival to celebrate reading and the written word with the local community.
The annual festival, which begins Sept. 19, will feature a keynote address by Greil Marcus, the renowned author, journalist, and rock critic, as well as talks by the latest Windham-Campbell honorees on a broad range of subjects, and readings of their work.
“We are thrilled to come together once again at Yale to recognize the incredible talents of the 2023 prize recipients and learn about what inspires them,” said Michael Kelleher, director of the Windham-Campbell Prizes. “One of the joys of organizing the festival is providing students and the public with opportunities to interact with the prize recipients in fun and enriching ways. The sense of camaraderie that develops between the prize recipients and members of the local community is always rewarding.”
The full schedule is available on the Windham-Campbell Prizes website. All events are free and open to the public.
The 2023 recipients, announced on April 4, are, in fiction, Percival Everett (United States) and Ling Ma (United States); in nonfiction, Susan Williams (United Kingdom) and Darran Anderson (Ireland/United Kingdom); in drama, Dominique Morisseau (United States) and Jasmine Lee-Jones (United Kingdom); and in poetry, Alexis Pauline Gumbs (United States) and dg nanouk okpik (Iñupiaq-Inuit).
Administered by the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library (which is part of the Yale University Library), the Windham-Campbell Prizes are among the world’s most generous and prestigious literary prizes. They are conferred annually to eight writers working in English anywhere in the world. Each recipient is awarded $175,000 to support their work. The prizes were established in 2013 through a gift from Donald Windham in memory of his partner of 40 years, Sandy Campbell.
This year’s festival will begin at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, with a celebration at Cross Campus featuring a DJ, a performance by Indigenous music group the Yootây Singers, and four food trucks. (All food is free.)
Yale President Peter Salovey will confer the prizes at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, during a ceremony in the auditorium of the Yale University Art Gallery, 1111 Chapel St. (at York Street).
Marcus, whose writing since the 1960s has helped define rock music’s place in American culture, will deliver a keynote lecture based on the theme “Why I Write.” His keynote, written especially for the occasion, will be the basis for the next installment of the prize’s “Why I Write” series, published by Yale University Press.
The festivities continue at 10 a.m. Thursday with coffee and treats under the tent at Cross Campus hosted by Meghan O’Rourke, editor of The Yale Review, the university’s quarterly journal of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and criticism. After coffee, the prize recipients will give short readings from their contributions to an upcoming issue of the journal.
At noon at Cross Campus, Erica R. Edwards, professor of English and African American Studies, will moderate a conversation about Black feminist authorship with prize recipients Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Jasmine Lee-Jones, and Dominique Morisseau. The event is co-hosted by the Black Feminist Collective at Yale University, a recently established campus group.
“The Black Feminist Collective at Yale is so excited to co-host this event because we think it’s so important to celebrate and think deeply about the writing of Black women and Black feminists,” Edwards said. “Gumbs, Lee-Jones, and Morisseau are among the most prolific, most urgent Black feminist writers of our time.”
Then, at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday under the Cross Campus tent, Kelleher will moderate a conversation with prize recipients Darran Anderson, Percival Everett, Ling Ma, and dg nanouk okpik about their journeys to becoming writers.
In keeping with Marcus’ participation in the festival, several events have musical themes. For instance, Anderson will lead a discussion at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library focused on the inclusion of two “Golden Records” — phonograph records containing sounds and images meant to capture the planet’s diversity of life and culture — onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes, which are the farthest human-made objects from the Earth.
On Friday at 4 p.m. at the Beinecke, Lee-Jones, who at 25 is the youngest-ever recipient of the prize, and writer Dan Charnas, author of “Dilla Time: The Life and After Life of J Dilla,” will listen to and discuss a selection of tracks from J Dilla, the celebrated music producer and artist who died in 2006.
Friday’s slate includes a conversation at noon on Cross Campus between students from Yale’s Native American Cultural Center and poet dg nanouk okpik about her life and work, with a focus on what it means to write in America as an Inuit/Iñupiaq woman. Also, at 4 p.m. Friday, at the Humanities Quadrangle, the Whitney Humanities Center will co-host a screening of “A United Kingdom,” a film based on the book, “Color Bar,” by prize-recipient Susan Williams.
“It is thrilling to witness another edition of the Windham-Campbell Literary Festival promoting writers from across the world and accentuating luminous writing across generic and formal boundaries,” said Cajetan Iheka, director of the Whitney Humanities Center, which is co-hosting several events. “The festival’s worldly disposition accords with the global vision of the humanities underpinning the Whitney Humanities Center. I am delighted to welcome attendees to the activities scheduled at the Humanities Quadrangle and across Yale’s beautiful campus.”
The prize recipients will close the festival by sharing selections from their work at a reading on Friday, beginning at 7:30 p.m., in the Yale University Art Gallery’s auditorium.