Happenings: MFA Readings at the Wittliff Collections

MFA program helps students share work amid icons of literary greatness

By Billi London-Gray

Three times each semester, the Wittliff Collections becomes a forum for the talented writers in Texas State University’s creative writing graduate program.

Surrounded by the work of great American writers, MFA students read from their works in the Southwestern Writers Room on the seventh floor of Alkek Library. The museum space is home to exhibits featuring the literary archives of icons like Cormac McCarthy, J. Frank Dobie and Katherine Anne Porter.

“These readings are to give them practice at performing their pieces in a professional setting, and to get more literature into the air on campus by having it presented out loud,” says Michele Miller, the publications specialist for the Wittliff Collections.

Each reading features six writers who read for 10 minutes each. Since Texas State’s MFA in creative writing caters to both poets and writers of fiction, the readings alternate between prose and poetry selections.

The semester’s first exhibition, held Feb. 8, featured readings by poetry students Jessica Binkley, Jason Coates and Colin Pope, and fiction students Joe Vastano, Benjamin Reed and Jason Conde.

“The readers are usually supported by an audience made up of their peers, plus some faculty and other students,” Miller says. “The students do not solicit feedback from the audience; their creative writing workshops serve that purpose.”

By James Knippen, first published in the journal Softblow

James Knippen is the coordinator for the MFA poetry readers this semester. As a student in the program, he says his biggest gains have come from a better understanding of issues in the world of poetry.

“More than anything, my time in the MFA program has honed my ability to consider and effectively communicate my personal opinions regarding issues of form, voice and other aspects of contemporary poetry,” Knippen says. “I feel that most of the improvements in my own writing have been a byproduct of this.”

Knippen’s poetry can be found in the online poetry journal Softblow. Knippen is also an editor for Front Porch, the nationally recognized literary journal of the Texas State MFA program.

The two remaining MFA student readings during the spring 2011 semester will be March 8 and April 12 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Southwestern Writers Room at the Wittliff Collections. Readings are free and open to the public.

For more information about MFA student readings or events at the Wittliff Collections, contact Michele Miller at m.miller@txstate.edu.

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